10 tracks / 48:13
There are times that it is not possible to put a label on a band or their music, and Midnight Breakfast from Bergamo, Italy is a perfect example of this. Over the past 30 years this blues band has developed their own tone and sound, one that bridges the roots of the genre with modern songwriting. Their latest album, Close to the Wall, is a heady piece of work that fans of any type of blues music should enjoy.
Midnight Breakfast is fronted by Marco Valietti on vocals and guitar, and for this latest project he was joined in London’s Master Chord Studio by Stefano Albertini on guitar, Luigi Cortinovis on bass, and Fabio Carenini on the skins. There are no keyboards or horns to be found on this release! Breaking with the homegrown tradition of their earlier albums, the band brought in a producer, Paolo Legramandi, to help them record all ten of their original songs over just four days. As a bonus, somehow they arranged to have the mastering completed at the venerable Abbey Road Studios. If only those walls could talk…
All of that work paid off, as Close to the Wall is a slick piece of work that has the feel of a live performance. The set kicks off with “There is a Bird” which has a Creedence Clearwater Revival swamp rock vibe, but the similarity stops once Valietti starts to sing. The words “raspy” and “throaty” are overused in album reviews, but Marco redefines these tired words with his beautifully croaking baritone. This effect plays well with the sound of the rest of the band, which uses a sparse arrangement to provide additional drama for the vocals. “You’re Talking About Your Feet” brings back the swamp rock sound (“Suzie Q”, this time), with some very tasty call and response between Marco and the lead guitar. As with the other tracks on the album, he adds a lot of extra sounds to his vocals that are not exactly words, and the overall effect is stunning.
From there they drop into a more conventional Chicago style blues on “Trying to Satisfy Myself,” with crystal clear guitar leads and a walking feel to the backline. A jangly guitar solo is the icing on the cake for this song. “Close to the Wall” is also a fine piece of fairly normal guitar-centered blues, this time with some crazy falsetto vocal work from Valietti.
The band mixes things up throughout Close to the Wall, and “One of These Mornings” is a neat song that could have been programmed on a mid-1970s progressive AOR radio station. This song has high quality guitar leads that could have come from Robin Trower, and the ostinato of bass and rhythm guitar moves things along at a markedly retrained pace. Marco shows even more vocal diversity and delivers the words in a breathless whisper.
With “I Missed the Man” and “Take Me,” Midnight Breakfast flirts a little with country blues-rock, and they do a respectable job. In fact, these tunes raise the question of whether this band could actually pull off a credible version ZZ Top’s “La Grange!”
The disc closes out with “Let Me Smoke My Last Cigarette” (how appropriate!), a slow burning blues track with subtle guitar interplay between Valietti and Albertini. A plodding and dramatic song like this would have been perfect with a little Hammond thrown into the mix, but these guys made it work anyway, and this was a perfect way to finish things up.
Midnight Breakfast’s Close to the Wall is one of the best modern blues albums of 2015, and it would definitely be worth your while to give it a listen. All ten songs are awesome by themselves, but as a whole this set is amazing and this record is the best work the band has done to date. There are no planned gig dates in the United States on their website, but hopefully they will make their way over here soon!