MYRIAM’S QUINTETTE: MERCY/MERCI

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Myriam’s Quintette: Solo Quintette (Syliphone, 1971, Discotheque ’71)

I just got back from my first ever trip to Paris (which was a blast) and while out there, I stopped by two stores: Superfly and Betino’s (both of which are highly recommended). Over the next few posts, I’ll be talking about records brought back from both but I had to start with this song in particular.

I first wrote about this here, back in 2004. It’s from a compilation produced out of Guinea though not all the artists are themselves from Guinea. Case in point, Myriam Mekeba, who is South African by birth but lived in Guinea during the era this was recorded, along with her then-husband Stokely Carmichael. While the cover of the LP credits the group as “Myryam’s Quintette,” that was almost certainly a typo. “Solo Quintette,” best as I can figure, is an instrumental track by Makeba’s band (there’s no singing on it).

As I wrote in 2004, “I appreciate how funky “Solo Quintette” is but not in a really obvious or force manner – that string melody doubles as a rhythm track too and the lo-fi drums give the song a sharp kick.” However, what’s also haunted me about this song, ever since I first heard it back in 1999 when the compilation was first reissued onto CD, is that it bears a striking resemblance to at least two American pop songs.

First, and perhaps most obviously, is The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen” (based on the intros to both).1 However, Makeba released another version of this song as “Myriam’s Quintette Song,” and that song clearly is a riff on Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy Mercy Mercy” and you can hear the same interpolation of one of its melodic passages in both “Solo Quintette” and “Myriam’s Quintette Song.”

No matter what though, “Solo Quintette” stands on its own for just sounding cool as hell.

(Shout out to Superfly for digging in their basement to find a copy of the Discotheque 71 LP for me).



P.S. I’m sure it’s already quite evident but I pulled the plug on 365 Days of Soul: I just didn’t have the energy to pull it off the way I wanted but the upside is that I’ll be doing longer, more informative (I hope!) posts instead of the quick strikes that dominated the first half of the year.

  1. What’s funny about “Soul Kitchen” is that it got sampled by Motion Man but was also covered by Buddy Rich for a version that was sampled by Showbiz and AG.

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