Mardi Gras Records has put together some excellent compilations of New Orleans music. The company has great taste in the selection of material great taste in the selection of material, and the transfers are usually pretty good. The only drawback to these collections is that they are woefully annotated. No personnel beyond band names are ever given; there are no dates for the sessions, and the music is presented completely without historical context. Fortunately, we know the material on Best of New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians because it all comes from three albums that were previously released on the label. Each of the records had a wealth of personalized and even eccentric material tailored to the specific participants. The compilation wisely sticks to the Wild Indian songs and chants that are commonly performed by most Indian gangs. The album opens with the one exception, “Handa Wanda” by the Wild Magnolias, recorded in 1970. This is the recording that brought the previously secret traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians to the general public. It was released on Crescent City Records and quickly became a New Orleans juke box classic.
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“Hey Pocky Way,” “Big Chief,” “Golden Crown” and “Indian Red” come from Treme Traditions, a 2010 release that pairs the Treme Brass Band with Mardi Gras Indian vocalists David Montana and Fred Johnson, Jr. Treme is in great form here, powered by the massive drums of Benny Jones, Uncle Lionel Batiste, Shannon Powell and Herlin Riley, Jr. and outstanding playing from the great Roger Lewis on saxophones, Corey Henry on trombone and Kirk Joseph on sousaphone.
“Sew, Sew, Sew,” “Corey Died on the Battlefield,” “Shoo Fly” and “Hell Out of the Way” come from Here Come the Indians Now! by Kevin Williams and the Flaming Arrows Mardi Gras Indians, featuring Milton Batiste on trumpet and guitarists Harry Sterling and Mario G. Tio.
“Injuns, Here Dey Come,” “Shotgun Joe,” “Shallow Water” and “Let’s Go Get ‘Em” come from one of the hottest New Orleans records of recent years, the eponymous release by 101 Runners. These white-hot tracks were concocted by congero Chris Jones and his merry crew, with June Yamagishi taking fierce guitar solos (check out his amazing turn on “Shotgun Joe”) and brought to another level by the transcendent vocals of Monk Boudreaux. Once you hear this record, you’ll want to go out and get all three of discs it’s compiled from.