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Area - Arbeit Macht Frei CD (album) cover



Rock Progressivo Italiano

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5 stars A landmark album: progressive rock meets balkan traditional music that meets jazz rock. Maybe the most important italian album of the '70. A left wing group, their lyrics deal with politics: the fantastic "Arbeit macht Frei" is named after the tragic nazi write upon the entrance od Auschwitz, a sad parable of the destiny of humanity under the law of capitalism. "Luglio, agosto, settembre nero" ("July, august, black september") is about the black september of '72 with the palestinian terroristic attacks, and begins with an arab voice... So beware if you don't know what you neighbours think about the question. Peace!
Report this review (#871)
Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ladies and Gentlemen, we are entering the "almost" non plus ultra of progressive music, whatever subgenre you want to addres to this 70's italian band. Ok, I must admit I"m italian and so I may sound not too objective to review this album, but as a matter of fact whoever will listen to this album will be amazed and left speechless. For those who are a bit familiar with the political and social situation in Italy during the 70's, it will be quite easy to recognize the incredible political background in the lyrics of "Arbeit Macht Frei", ironic title taken from the well known Nazi motif, "the work makes you free". And this is one of the unique peculiarities of Area, the ability to match the sperimentalization of complicated music with very intense and profund lyrics. In fact, Demetrio Stratos was first of all an all-around artist, a sperimentalist of the voice, as you could appreciate in his solo album "Cantare La Voce". And behind him but not least, a group of musicians who will undoubtedly influence many generations. What is phenomenal is the rhytmic section, in which we can hear the bass lines modelled along a sometimes walking bass-like pattern and some other times more funky and "groovy", if you let me this adjective. My favourite song is Luglio, Agosto Settembre (Nero), a music manifesto of what my country was on those years, seen thorugh the eyes of these 5 superb and crystally innovative musicians; yet, it's just a question of emotional impact, because the rest of the album must be present in your discography, as well as The Dark Side Of The Moon or In the Court of the Crimson King or Foxtrot, and I'm not joking, as you will experience after listening to it.

Report this review (#874)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars From the first Arab prayer words to the the last note , everything in this album spells classic! It certainly is a very influential album not only for Italian groups ( bands such as Deus Ex machina owe a lot to Area) but also for RIO. Although Area is one of the prominent group thought of when RIO is mentioned , this album is not yet in that style but more to do with Canterbury style music.

Led by Grek-born Stratos, Area were very left wing politics and the title of this album is a denonciation of the Nazi slogan (translates into "work sets you free") written on the gate of the extermination camps! This title track is absolutely stunning veering often in Free style improv at the start before settling in its jazz-rock groove. All tiltes are strong but the real highlight IMHO is the closer Abbatimento dello Zeppelin. A lot of the ambiances will remind you of Canterbury classic bands but none exactly pin-pointed. Just one hint, some of the more inventful moments will remind you of Soft Machine but more in the Hugh Hoppe- mode tunes than in the Ratledge-Jenkins mode.

Very much a classic and highly influential!

Report this review (#876)
Posted Monday, May 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first work announced in 1973 "Arbeit Macht Frei". It makes to the first work as well as KING CRIMSON and the performance of high-tension has already been completed. The performance is extraordinary. It is talented Vorcal. The impact considerably. How should be expressed this music? There is certainly a technique of so-called jazz-rock. Power with an extraordinary whole volume has been filled. It is an album of a wonderful content.
Report this review (#45408)
Posted Sunday, September 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars very good band, underrated (I prefer them to PFM), able to play great music oriented to fusion and open to jazz contaminations. The title reminds to the Nazi motif and it criticize the modern society, the world of the capitalism and the consumism system...The first track begins with the recording of an arabian prayer and with the last is one of my favourite songs of the group...This one is the greatest album of the band, and I suggest you should take it, because it really woth to listen.
Report this review (#81434)
Posted Sunday, June 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars AREA, for me, are one of the most unsung Italian prog bands, especially on this site. With my preference for all things symphonic when it comes to Italian prog, I too fall into the category of not knowing lesser known prog bands in the Jazz/Fusion field. These guys are at the top, so far. I just love Stato's voice with its twists and turns, bellows and warbles, he flys all over the place. And so does the music! The saxs takes the lead on most of the songs, but don't dispare, all the important prog elements are there but you must have an open mind, this is definately not BANCO, PFM or any of the multitude of Italian one shots. These guys have an agenda, left wing politics on top of some of the tightest grooves that ever came out of Europe. Watch out Miles, you have some competition! Oh, and by the way, if you listen closely during the title song you'll hear some GENTLE GIANT from their jazzy first album. Being their first album, I tend to think there's not enough of Stato, but don't let discourage you. This is a must-have Italian prog album of the absoulte highest order. Almost as good as their 1975 masterpiece "Crac!". My rating is 4.5, which I'll round out to 5 stars. It would be a definate 5-star album for fans of Jazz/Fusion prog and maybe Canterbury fans will dig it. So what are you waiting for? Go now! You won't regret it!
Report this review (#92765)
Posted Saturday, September 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars With more energy than Mahavishnu Orchestra and more edge than most of the RPI scene, Area's "Arbeit Macht Frei" is a must-listen - one that puts less accomplished groups back into perspective.

Note that this album is not exclusively for fusion-heads - this reviewer certainly isn't one of them - as it rarely slips into jazz variation downtime, preferring to steadily apply pressure to the listener's ears. When jazz is the focus, this reviewer is reminded of bands such as Soft Machine or Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi and features similar instrumentation; however, instead of extending into the jazz note horizon, "Arbeit Macht Frei" features several moments where strong rock grooves emerge from the funk - the beauty of it all is that this always occurs just before the sax versus electric piano motif would become taxing on the patience.

Let's not skip over Mr. Stratos' voice - it'd be a reviewer's crime to do so, thereby skipping a perfect chance to use the word "bleating" with a positive connotation! For the man is a vocal contortionist with style and with fierce power of delivery - think Banco's Di Giacomo with less of a theatrical edge but more passion, coupled with a little fringe Patton activity (it'd be interesting to know whether Mike Patton is indeed a fan of Area.)

A few notes about the individual tracks without lapsing into analysis; "Settiembre" is partially built around a dancing, ethnic melody line, perhaps inspired by the traditional music of greece; the title track starts experimentally but locks into a jazz-rock groove without compare; "Consapevolazza" is smooth and pensive and features a sax part that to this reviewer's mind mimics Mr. Stratos' singular vocal style; "Le Labbra del Tempo" changes things up with an intro that has a similar furious "everyone play the theme in unison!" feel as KC's legendary "21st Century Schizoid Man"; "240 Chilometri da Smirne" is your alloted semi-improv jazz expedition to put you in the mood for "L'Abbattimento delio Zeppelin", which is a dark and stormy fusion skree featuring the versatile voice of Mr. Stratos in the role of instrumentation - if there are lyrics to be beheld during this song, they are whispered, ranted and piped out, falsetto. It's an urgent, desperate and avant-garde way to end an album but this is no mistake, as from here Area just get more and more peculiar.

If you like what I've described then I urge you to listen to "Arbeit Macht Frei" for yourself as it shouldn't disappoint - the musicians involved have taste and class and are performing world-worthy compositions with glee and at times, a terrible ferocity. Recommended.

Report this review (#118940)
Posted Thursday, April 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I didn't know then what Arbeit Macht Frei meant when I listened it for the first times, nor its history. But when I was told that it was written in Auschwitz's entrances, I got slightly shocked. This guys were radicals! And Italy was not in a very nice moment. However, I managed to translate the first song, which is a protest against Black (or Dark) Sepetember, a palestine terrorist group responsible for killing thirteen jew athletes in '72 Olympic Games. So they are against terrorism and against nazism, which is great.

Demetrio Stratos' voice is indeed something to be empasysed (how did he manage to acumulate such a rare voice?! Diplophonia, triplophonia, quadrifonia, reaches until 7kHz, able to talk to God, etc), however I feel that the saxophone work by Victor Busnello is just as great on its own rights, although he is hardly credited. At least on my CD he isn't recognised properly. Instead there is the most arrogant booklet ever with some nice pictures of them.

Anyway, I rated it five stars due to the great blend of oriental music, jazz and rock, not to mention the great musicianship. And, what's better, you don't actually have to like fusion or Arab music to enjoy it (although it is a rather difficult album to listen), for they are a whole genre on themselves. Pay attention to "Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)" and "Le Labbra Del Tempo", featuring great and gorgeous performances from Victor Busnello and Demetrio Stratos, respectively.

Report this review (#143210)
Posted Tuesday, October 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Thanks again, ProgArchives, for this unique and exciting addition to my collection! There's absolutely no way I would have found this album on my own, and it would have been much to my collection's detriment. Area have put together one of those albums that features a sound you won't find anywhere else, similar to what Harmonium and Symphony X have accomplished at least on one occasion (at least in my opinion), to name a few. Of course, the influences are vastly different for Area than these other bands, which include for me plenty of Gentle Giant, some Van der Graaf Generator, and just a hint of some fusion stalwarts (though not a lot, considering they are in the same genre).

These guys really sample from too many genres to be pigeonholed into any one of them, including rock, jazz, fusion, and some psychadelia. The net result is an ever changing, fascinating beast that will keep your ears at attention for the 36 minute duration. Nero is a great opener, which really kicks up the tempo (including plenty of tempo changes), different instrumental/vocal combinations, and even throwing some key changes on top at the end. This segues nicely into the highlight of the album for me, the title track. Arbeit begins with some spacey noodling, which leads into some nice jazz interplay, and then finally the funky primary melody for the tune. This is also a great example of the band's tendency for one or two members to catch a new groove, and then for the other members to pick it up later for great effect. I love these kinds of transitions, and they are difficult enough to pull off that many bands either aren't creative or capable enough to attempt them.

The rest of the songs similarly distinguish themselves, from the impassioned vocals on the heavy parts of Consapevolezza (with awesome heavy/light contrasts throughout), to the freaky conclusion to Le Labbra, to the extended guitar/sax jam on 240 Chilometri, to the fuzzy guitar/distorted keys interplay on the closer. You just get the sense that each member has complete control over his instrument (or voice) at all times, and are constantly pushing each other.

Each time I put this one on, I have a new appreciation for at least one of the sections, and if I get bored with one, Area will quickly move into something that does interest you. An essential addition for anyone who thinks they have a diverse collection: this will likely add a new dimension.

Report this review (#155241)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rating: A-

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso and Premiata Forneria Marconi may be the biggest names around in Italian Progressive Rock, but the best has to be the jazz-rock band Area. With politically charged anti-fascist lyrics and music that hits just as hard, they are among the most powerful bands I've ever heard. One need only look to the opener, "Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)," to see just how powerful this band truly is. With it's catchy jazz riff interspersed with an invigorating vocal line that finally builds up to a free jazz freakout, before finally returning to the riff, "Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)" is absolutely on fire, blazing its way through four and a half minutes in what seems to be half the time, if that.

Of course, it's impossible not to compare them to The Mahavishnu Orchestra, who, after all, define what jazz-rock/fusion is all about. Truth be told, the two are very similar, though Area is more reliant on synthesizer than The Mahavishnu Orchestra, who were of course dominated by McLaughlin's guitar. Also, Area make use of some excellent saxophone, which doesn't appear in any Mahavisnu Orchestra songs I know. While I prefer Area's music (I think it is played with a lot more fire, passion, and above all, emotion than that of Mahavishnu Orchestra), they are both excellent and its hard to rank one above the other. That is, it's hard, but only until you consider the vocals of Area (vocals are entirely absent in Mahavishnu Orchestra's music). Suffice it to say, Area's vocals are beyond phenomenal. Demetrio Stratos has an absolutely stunning range and uses it to push the envelope (one could see him as a precursor to Mike Patton), but his greatest strength is the pure power imbued in his majestic voice. Imagine Francisco del Giacomo (of Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso) with a greater range and even more powerful a voice.

If all of that hasn't convinced you to buy this amazing CD, I don't know what will. With excellent musicianship but also a strong grasp of emotion, this is by far my favorite jazz-rock CD. Ignore it at your own risk. You're missing out on a masterpiece.

Report this review (#161716)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars I like a lot of Jazz Rock Fusion......but this is just not for me....The vocals are extremely unusual and annoying.....and even the horns are jarring for large portions......There are some excellent musical sections.....but they are overwhelmed by the annoying features for me.....
Report this review (#164967)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of the most talented and creative bands not only in the 70's italian progressive scene but in the prog rock history as well.Area deliver an excellent jazz rock album in their debut with some KING CRIMSON-like passages (just listen to the intro of ''Arbeit macht frei''),ethnic influences (the whole first track influenced by the arabian culture) and also some MAGMA-like sections (listen to the last track of the album).But it's not only the excellent musicianship that stands out,it's also the unique voice of Demetrio Stratos,one of the most obscure,powerful and weird voices I've ever heard.Stratos is the main figure of the band undoubtfully,I don't know if Area would have such a fame in the prog circles if Stratos weren't in the band...An album full of inspired vocal and music improvisations...5 stars and even more for jazz,RIO and Zeuhl lovers, 3.5 stars for an average prog fan...
Report this review (#169576)
Posted Friday, May 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Times of political and social unrest throughout history have proved a reliable jumpstart to creativity, throughout history. Perhaps these circumstances are present all the time, but it's obvious that there were many "hot spots" during the tempestuous years of the Cold War. If we zero in on Italy during the middle of this conflict, we see a nation struggling to gain an identity, and the characteristic battle between polar opposites on the ideological spectrum. Area emerged at this time, with the ambitious goal of capturing the atmosphere on the streets in addition to challenging themselves as musicians and individuals. They could be included as an embryonic form of the "Rock in Opposition" movement, because their approach was similar to what Henry Cow was doing at the time. From the outset, the Area sound was an all-inclusive free-for-all of influences and ethnicities - stretching from different Mediterranean styles, Balkan folk music, Arabian, avant-garde, classical, free jazz/improv, and fusion. This seemingly jumbled assortment of influences congealed beautifully into an adventurous statement of artistic aptitude waiting excitedly to jump from behind its cunning Dadaist smirk. I would seldom call what Area did here a commercial approach, but they created quite a buzz with "Arbeit Macht Frei."

At the time this album was recorded, the band was already demonstrating assurance of role and personality within the group. Vocalist Demetrio Stratos was very much the voice and image of the group, while keysman Patrizio Fariselli was the mastermind beneath their stylistic direction. Interestingly, it had only been a short time since Stratos' abandoned his attempts at becoming a pop star. When Area was formed, he decided to dramatically redirect his approach to singing, becoming one of the most experimental vocalists of the era.

"Luglio, agosto, settembre (nero)" opens the album and from the get-go solidified Area's place as musical and political daredevils. An Arab prayer or poem introduces the track before Stratos takes over, promptly joined by a tricky groove that takes a folk dance and gives it a jazzy kick in the rear. The middle section is filled with chaotic noise which gradually becomes more organized before that groove comes back. This is the type of track that is very hard to describe; you have to hear it yourself. Definitely one of Area's finest moments. "Black September" is also significant in its controversial dive into the political ring. It is notable for its' sympathetic treatment of terrorism, specifically the actions of PLO's and the "Munich Massacre" during the Olympics the previous summer. Regardless of their stance . . . or yours, or mine, Area's representation of the struggle is a powerful one and shows incredible depth of perception (unfortunately, I can't recommend an adequate translation although there are several experts on this site who may be able to shed more light than I ;).

Up next, the title track takes its name from a Nazi slogan, along the lines of "work sets you free." The lyrics are oblique and I get the feeling there's a clever use of wordplay that doesn't translate particularly well across cultures. After an intro consisting of various sound effects and drum rolls, a descending bass line emerges from the swamp and morphs into a funky rhythm after several brass transitions. These guys really nail it here; the performances are incredibly tight - on par with the best. My favorite part is around four minutes, when the "main" bassline comes in backed by Eddy Busnello's energetic saxophones . . . and of course there's Demetrio's excellent vocal performance complete with intense groans and even something that sounds like angry yodeling. By the end of the track, we get another funky bassline with freaky synth and guitar soloing.

"Consapevolezza" jumps out to an upbeat eruption of sax, bass, and electric piano before winding into many valleys and crevasses. Stratos performs more acrobatics, this time pounding each verse into the ground and accenting with that quasi-yodel - don't try it at home! The instrumental sections dart in and out of the verses, with unpredictable twists that are nonetheless welcome every time. We hear frantic sections interlaced with cool jazzy solos courtesy of Busnello. I'm amazed at how well Fariselli, Busnello, and Tofani translate the vocal line into a unison riff over top of the volatile tempo of Capiozzo and Dijvas. "Le Labbra del Tempo" follows in the same vein only with less structure. Most of the themes covered begin to appear and disappear quickly and often contrast the rhythmic backing; the resulting feel is dissonant yet approachable. The whole thing is really a mess to describe (in a good way, of course). After this, we get more jazz with "240 Chilometri da Smirne". It's hard to tell whether this was improvised or not, the musicians play extremely well off of each other, seemingly in free jazz spirit, and Giulio Cappiozzo is notably impressive behind the kit. The final track, "L'abbattimento dello Zeppelin" is the most chaotic on the album. Stratos lets loose with all kinds of shrieks and insane raving, whispering, and moaning. Not for the faint of heart.

I really want to give this one five stars, but I'm sure it's not for everyone, especially those who aren't into this relatively extreme approach and the tendency to experiment early and often. But to those looking for a taste of this crazy stuff, "Arbeit Macht Frei" is a good place to start, just edging out "Crac!" as Area's best work.

PA rating: somewhere between 4 and 4.5

The Jimmy Row Factor: 9/10 , A

Report this review (#172367)
Posted Tuesday, May 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars After many twists and turns and recommendations popping up in various threads at various times, Area finally made it into my collection. The praise spoke of high-class intensity and world-class musicians and naturally, even though this isn't a symphonic Italian band, just the tag Italian represents a certain attraction, but most importantly often a deviance from many of the norms of the established genres, wherever the band itself is placed.

Stunning, intensely fiery, extrovert and refusing to sit still in its jazz-prog/fusion home, Arbeit Macht Frei just nailed me to the wall during the first listen. If damaged by the music, don't expect any insurance money. They will instantly claim force majeure. In part this surprise originates in that I haven't dabbled much in J-R/fusion or in the jazzed up, more avant corners of the Canterbury scene, but fact remains; this is an immensely powerful and passionate record.

Tight, interesting bass and frantic drumming rumbles up an impressive momentum on which complex guitar, saxophone and keys can freely head out in organised chaos. But if the Canterbury and J-R/Fusion bands manage to do this with at least equal intricacy, they don't stand a chance against the emotional quality of Area. Being a very politically active band, out on the left, this definitely helps in transmitting the raw aggression and passion to the listener in what feels like a perfectly honest way. It grabs you by the throat, calling for action and understanding, but never in an unpleasant way; all these feelings may seem compulsory, but they come to you in the most voluntary way. I guess this is why I like it so much compared to my other experiences of musically similar bands. They end up in that complexity-for-complexity's sake trap: interesting, sure, but it just doesn't reach me on an emotional level. Even the experimental and stripped musical passages, often with twitchy, probing performances from all the instruments, are charged with emotion. Uncertainty, suppressed anger and something darker and more sinister. It's hard to put you're finger on.

The jazzy parts are dominating, but it's very refreshing that they rarely stray into inward noodlings, something I find very hard to tolerate. It happens, but they're soon back with full throttle again via another one of those tasteful bridges. Also noteworthy is the groovy, slightly rockier character of Arbeit Macht Frei, which creates that powerful drive and direction I otherwise actually would have missed.

As in most reviews of this album, Demetrio Statos deserves some extra credit. His voice is uniquely expressive and dramatic, and with his range he often performs well beyond the call of duty, blending with the rest of the music like another instrument. The same man is also responsible for the organ on Arbeit Macht Frei. Together with underrated keyboardist Patrizio Fariselli, the assembled keys also deserve mentioning; they are quite close to the sound familiar from much of RPI! Often warm and rich when they get a place in the spotlight.

In many ways a perfect album, and at first it felt like one. But with repeated listens the jazzy parts have a tendency to dominate just a little too much, and sounding a little too much like the others. This isn't really a problem. It's more a matter of taste. It's not repetitive, but after a while a lot of structural and stylistic similarities emerge from the record. Had they used a little more of the ethnic qualities, epic connotations and rhythms found on the stand-out tracks of stand-out tracks - Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (nero) - this would easily reach masterpiece levels

.but 4 well-deserved stars really aren't bad.


Report this review (#175763)
Posted Sunday, June 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars AREA's debut album from 1973 is a politically charged blend of Jazz, Canterbury and Avant-garde. Vocalist Demetrio Stratos born from Greek parents was certainly one of the best singers of any genre. He really pushed the boundries with his style and was very innovative. He tragically died of leukemia in New York where he went to receive a bone marrow transplant. He was only 34 years old. This would be bass player Jan Patrick Djivas' only album with the band as he would leave after this one to join PFM.

"Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)" opens with a female speaking a prayer in Arabic before we get vocals from Demetrio followed by a full sound. Check out the dissonant sax before 3 minutes and the chaos too. It settles with some organ and vocal melodies before the uptempo melody from earlier returns. "Arbeit Macht Frei" opens with some impressive and intricate drumming. Birds are chirping (what the heck !) as cymbals, flute and bass follow in an atmospheric section. Sax 2 1/2 minutes in and then the song just takes off. A great jazzy sound is the result with lots of sax, piano, light drums and bass. Love the sound as the drums come in after 4 minutes. Vocals arrive after 4 1/2 minutes. Lots of amazing sax after 6 minutes. Drumming also impresses 7 minutes in. Fantastic track.

"Consapevolezza" is led by sax and drums early in this uptempo intro. It settles into a very Canterbury-ish sound.This part really blew me away, I mean this is Canterbury 101. Vocals 1 1/2 minutes followed by some excellent guitar. It calms right down 3 1/2 minutes in as sax, light drums and bass create a great atmosphere. Vocals return 5 minutes in. It ends with a full sound. Amazing song, and my favourite. "Le Labbra Del Tempo" opens with outbursts of sound that come and go. It settles in and then vocals come in with sax. A jazzy sound after 2 minutes. A powerful chaotic sound before 4 minutes. A calm arrives. Check out the vocals 5 minutes in ! A full sound ends it. "240 Chilometri Da Smirne" is very jazzy with lots of sax reminding me of PASSPORT. Some great sax work on this one. A bass solo after 2 minutes. The drumming and sax continue to impress. "L'Abbattimento Dello Zeppelin" has a spacey and haunting intro. Jazzy with vocal melodies after 1 1/2 minutes in. Guitar after 2 minutes is the best on the album. Some crazy vocals 3 1/2 minutes in to the end of the song with some avant-garde instrumental work to support him.

Highly recommended to fans of Avant-garde and Jazz. A very influential album.

Report this review (#178304)
Posted Sunday, July 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Arbeit Macht Frei is the debut studio album from Italian jazz rock/ avant garde rock band Area. I´ve listened to this album many times before writing my review because I felt it difficult to write about Area´s music. Music this diverse and challenging is always hard to write about.

The music is primarely in the jazz rock vein but there are also avant garde tendencies and a bit of hard rock here and there. There are lots of solos played primarely on sax and on initial listen the music seems a bit unstructured and jam like except for the first song Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero) which is very different from the rest. If you want to know what Area sounds like you should skip to song number 2 and that´s not because Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero) is a bad song. On the contrary it´s one of my favorites here but it´s very different from the rest. There are some great Italian vocals and an electric violin in that song which is so masterful. That song is more in the RIO/ Avant garde vein than jazz rock. The rest of the songs are more or less jazz rock. Mainly instrumental but with vocal sections here and there. Great Italian vocals. Of course I don´t understand a word but the way Demetrio Statos sings is great.

As I mentioned above I first found the music a bit unstructured but after listening to Arbeit Macht Frei several times everything falls into place and I have found that this music is indeed very tightly structured. This is something which is alfa omega for my listening pleasure. It feels like I´ve solved the puzzle and it´s a great experience. What beautiful and challenging music.

The musicianship is astonishing and I´m left speechless every time I finish listening to this rather short album ( 36:24 minutes). There are so many great moments on the album. The rythm section,the guitar, the vocals, the organ, the sax, the violin. It is one of those divine interplays between musicians you so seldom hear.

The production is excellent. Warm and cleverly done.

Arbeit Macht Frei has been an eye opening experience for me. My persistence has payed off and Arbeit Macht Frei is near a masterpiece in my ears. I´ll rate it 4 big stars and recommend it to anyone who like me is a bit intimidated by jazz rock. This is a great place to start as there is plenty of rock on this album as well as jazz. I might upgrade this to 5 stars sometime in the future that´s how good I think it is. I just need to see if it stands the test of time.

Report this review (#180866)
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars My personal fav of area And a must have for italian rock fans of all kinds A bit more jazzy than the other area stuff but still has the stuff you area fans love Great Vocals, Awesome transitions, Expiremental but still easy to love at first listen Why i liked this album the most of area was because of the unison parts with the newly added sax and the amazing keyboard solo in the 2nd track That part is my favorite part of the whole album (which is quite short, and youll wish it was longer).It was a solo as fast as hell with an awesome break phrase and cool background lines from the sax and guitar. The drumming is also something to love on hear with some parts where it really shines. Everytime i listen to this album theres something cool i didnt catch that blows my fragile musical mind.
Report this review (#181609)
Posted Wednesday, September 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I don?t really tend to listen to a lot of Italian prog, but Area seems to prove to be an exception. Maybe it?s the quirkiness, maybe it?s the bombast, or maybe it?s because it still sounds so incredibly fresh 30+ years after the album was put to print. Area combines the technicality and complexity of Gentle Giant and then proceeds to make it crazier, more jazz-infused, and more avant-garde than anything the Shulman brothers would have ever dared to do. Stratos might be one of my favorite vocalists, and he seems to have only three ranges: off, low, and high. I mean that only in a good sense though. I feel his vocals often set the tone for where the music is going to go and help keep together the madness that the instrumental work creates. He makes me wish I knew Italian sometimes so I could understand what?s coming out of his mouth.

The first song fits very well in Avant-garde territory. Really, all of them do. But the majority are more jazz-fusion with touches of avant throughout. The vocals are all in Italian. The music is also extremely complex and may give the listener an initial phase of it being random for the sake of being random. This is far from the case though. This is extremely tightly-structured music.

I do enjoy jazz rock but this was a type of fusion that was completely new and original to me. At first I didn?t know what to think but I?m glad that I was persistent. The music really clicks only after repeated listening. But if I had to pick only two things that really make this outstanding for me, I would choose Stratos? vocals and the interplay so important to jazz that rarely seems to be as good as it is here. The production quality is very good and has definitely stood the test of time. This album, like all other Area albums I?ve heard so far, sounds invigorating and crisp.

While many people often cite this as being Area?s masterpiece, I would disagree. I much prefer their next two releases, but this one is damn good in its own right. And as painful as it is to not award this album a 5-star rating, it must be done. This is a fantastic debut that blows most other bands? debuts out of the water. Highly recommended to fans of avant-garde, weirder jazz-fusion, or anyone who just appreciates highly technical and virtuosic music that remains very tasteful. 4 stars.

Report this review (#218588)
Posted Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Area... And 'Works Make Us Free'!

I'm not a man that have interests in politics. Normally my vote is for who is moderate but capable of meeting the problems of society in the vision of a better future, even if it means sacrifices in the immediate. In this sense I'm a man of this era!!!

So... Because Area please me? Because Area is a great band with great music and musicians. Area creates a tons of magic and the perfect style about their fantastic musical minds and their music is the power of political ideas. For me this is the true power of Area. It is true that the perfect preparation of Area's musicians (all more or less fell from the Conservatory or have great musical studies behind).

Area is the final journey of some musical friends (not all with the same political ideas) that is concretised in this band. Because of this Area, for me, is one of the few true supergroup of Rock and proper for this fact their music is the condensation of individual ideas that Patrizio Fariselli could translate into warm compositions (with Frankenstein's lyrics). In this sense the powerful taste of all Area's members remains intact but can merge into a single thought that is behind the magic of Area.

Probably Area is not a Jazz band, a Rock band, a Prog band, a Blues band but the final result of all these musical genres. Obviously, since Area born and live in 70's, the final music is classify in Prog and since Area's music present a Rock matrix Area is a true RPI band with Jazz parts and Heavy melody (not sound).

'Arbeit Mach Frei (Il Lavoro Rende Liberi)' is the first experience of Area as band. Certainly 'Arbeit...' is a magical album, a great transfer of emotions between band and listener. Demetrio Stratos is no longer the pander POPsinger that I Ribeelli music required. Now 'Diplophony' is the new verb for Stratos. 'Arbeit...', besides, is an album that please you if you please PFM, also if 'Arbeit...' present Jazz parts. The dynamism of Area creates the perfect mix between PFM and 70's Fusion but is is clear that Area is not a Fusion band. In my definition of Area's music Fusion RPI is my classification. The perfection in 'Arbeit...' is not only the voice of demetrio but also the powerful keys/ synths soli that Fariselli plays and the hot sax parts plays by Busnello.

It is impossible to describe the music contain in 'Arbeit...' if you are not a musician. It is describable the power, the magic and the feeling that 'Arbeit...''s music transmit. but it is difficult to write these transmission in easy manner. For me the power is excessive but real and good, the magic is excesive but extremely occult and the feeling is too potent.

A good linten to 'Arbeit...' is not difficult but strange. Strange because 'arbeit...' is not a classifiable album. Is 'Arbeit...' a fusion album? Is 'Arbeit...' a RPI album? 'Arbeit...' is all of this. But it is true that Area is one of the more innovative 70's band. In my personal view Area have only one similar band: King Crimson!

So 'Arbeit Mach Frei (Il Lavoro Rende Liberi' is the most adventurous italian album. A must for all who love the great music.

Report this review (#229219)
Posted Friday, July 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

"Arbeit Macht Frei" is one of the essential Italian Prog albums.

One of the best Italian albums of all time. This masterpiece is especially due thanks to the singer's unbelievable voice, Demetrio Stratos. But even all the other band members, like the sax player and the drummer, have an excellent preparation. This is more than just a italian prog rock album: fusion, rock, influenced by many exotic types of music, especially med oriental, arab, and even some Greek music (Stratos is in fact from this country). Songs like "Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)", "Consapevolezza", and even the title track, went down in history because of their immense creativity in songwriting, and even in the lyrical point of view (All lyrics written by their producer, Frankenstein). If you want to understand italian prog, this is truly one of it's miraculous masterpieces. Enjoy!

Report this review (#237555)
Posted Sunday, September 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars What a fantastic music!!! It's rare example of Italian prog from 70-th, which is coming without musical schoolboys chorals, church music and baroque pretty-sweet banchettos.

You have REAL avant-jazz-fusion-prog with volcanic energy there. No jokes!

First song "Luglio,Agosto,Settembre (Nero) " is started with female voice ( in arabic), and continues with hot Balcanic dance. ( I lived in Balkans some years,they have fantastic musical legacy there!). But don't be mistaken - all other album is different. Strong vocal of Greek/Egyptian origin vocalist Demetrion Stratos will lead you during all the album. Music is very complex and ... fantastic! High technique mixture of heavy gutar, keybords, pulsating bass line - and classic elements in it.

All songs are very individual, of complex construction, plenty of improvisation in its. Drums are at the highest point!

All musicians are extra-virtuossos, the musica they 're producing - of highest possible standard.

Absolutely perfect album!!! Strongly recommended to anyone inetresting in prog-rock of highest level!

Report this review (#239563)
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Listed under Rock Progressivo Italiano, Area feels closer to Rock In Opposition, both for their left wing ideology and for their highly eclectic mix of jazz, rock, classical music and circus extravaganza. The fact that they immediately appealed to me supports that claim, not that RIO is easier on the ears then RPI but it simply suits my taste better. The vocals are highly dramatic, theatrical almost, ranging from hoarse bellowing to yodelling. Probably an acquired taste, but similar to Banco Del Mutual Soccorso, the vocals are one of the main attractions for me.

Luglio, Agosto, Settembre is an ode to Middle Eastern music. It starts with a spoken Arabian poem. My Arabian knowledge is limited to the word 'habibi' (loved-one), but I guess that's enough to claim it's a love poem. A touching Arabian clarinet melody and Middle Eastern dance rhythms drive this song into a furious craze. Arbeit Macht Frei builds up beautifully from seemingly random jazzy sounds into another fusion of styles, this time jazz-rock and Prog. It comes off like something between Zappa and Magma. Consapevoleza continuous in the same vein but is a bit harder to warm up to. The intricate rhythms and melodies will demand your returning attention. La Labbra Del Tempo rocks more and works easier, even if that remains relative given the high level of boiling creativity here. 240 Chilometri Da Smirne and L'Abbattimento further explore Area's jazz-rock meets RIA weirdness. Highly original and intruiging music.

Area has fully convinced me that I missed out on a huge well of Prog creativity. Some of this stuff has become hard to find and is frequently overpriced, so I'm glad I got there before you! Now go check it out as well and don't let yourself be beaten to it by other PA members!

Report this review (#259900)
Posted Friday, January 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
5 stars Area's stunning ferociously original approach to music left me in awe.

"Arbeit Macht Frei" is my first taste of this delicious Italian prog band hailing from the eclectic golden era of the 70s; it simply was a delightful experience. The music is astonishingly different and wonderfully complex. One to savour for progheads who like prog to be sheer adventure.

It begins slowly and then builds to the incredible 'Luglio, agosto, settembre (nero)' (July, August , Black September) "Forget your weapons and live in peace" a female voice pleads, "My love, With peace, with peace I have placed Loving flowers at your feet, With peace, with peace I stopped the seas of blood for you, Forget anger, Forget pain..." Then a strange male voice echoes the sentiment. The Arabian music flies out of the speakers and pins you to the wall with unrelenting power. The lyrics are in Italian but translated as: "Playing with the world, leaving it in pieces, Children that the sun has reduced to old age. It's not my fault if your reality forces me to fight your conspiracy of silence. Maybe one day we will know what it means to drown in blood with humanity."

Amazing lyrical power is accompanied by foreign sounding duel woodwind flourishes. The time sig picks up considerable pace and there is a great duel sax trade off instrumental with polyrhythms, sporadic tom tom drums and screeching vocals by Demetrio Stratos. His vocal gymnastics are well executed and become another instrument. It is chilling, ethereal but very emotional, almost screaming out in anger. The eccentric music is not for the squeamish, coming across as angry and volatile but it soon settles into a strange ambient peaceful section threatening to explode at any moment. The droning saxes are portentous and looming. Translated the final words are: "When you see the world without problems seek the essence of all things. It's not my fault if your reality forces me to make war with humanity". It ends with the main motif. In a word ? alarmingly brilliant!

The title track 'Arbeit Macht Frei' follows and typifies the approach of the band to unconventional music. Innovative virtuoso musicianship with always interchanging time signatures and mood swings. The insane sax work is reminiscent of the type of work Jackson did with VDGG or even King Crimson in the early years. There are some wild flourishes of polytonalities, and the drums simply take off. When the band is in full flight such as midway through the title track, it is the most compelling music you will hear. The bassline is awesome and really holds the track together and then it stops suddenly. The style of Stratos is similar to the vocal style of Grobschnitt or PFM for that matter. High falsetto in places but easy to listen to and utterly full of conviction.

Track 3, 'Consapavolezza', begins with some ominous sax and bass, with a clean guitar sound. The vocals are distinct complete with rolling R's. There is a beautiful instrumental break with scorching sax and ambient keyboards. These guys were not kidding! Intersecting passages of dark and light and always a quirky humourous streak breaking through. The drums are sporadic and jazz fusion influenced. This is RPI at its best.

'Le Labbra Del Tempo' is a 6 minute improvisational jazz fest. It stops and starts at will and the drums struggle to keep up but somehow do. The urgent sax is accompanied by Stratos estranged vocals. It locks into an infectious groove, that takes detours and echoes the vocal rhythms. Metrical shapes take over and there is a keyboard instrumental and the drums spiral out of control. he guitar work is frenetic but suitable. The high strangeness of echoing keys are a feature and then it is again brought to some semblance of orde rwith an ambient section of melancholy beauty. Very heavy synth is a welcome change, Stratos sings in his own inimitable style. Once again the fast paced music takes over, a sax and guitar pysch-out. Amazing prog.

'240 Chilometri Da Smirne' begins with high saxophone solo and an offbeat rhythmic metrical pattern of bass and drums. It is a strange blend of time sig metronome bending prog and jazz fusion. There is a strong bass solo that continues under screaming dueling staccato sax blasts and shimmering keyboards. A very full wall of sound is created and it goes haywire for a few moments then is pulled back together by the key musical motif. This is broken by a freakout section with organ squelches until it fades with a moaning sax. A sensual , gorgeous instrumental.

'L'Abbattimento Dello Zeppelin' is the weirdest track; a spoken wailing section with estranged sax and bizarre effects is unsettling, unnerving, macabre at times, but a solid way to end such a ground breaking album. The drums echo the vocals and explode into a cacophony of freakout noise, like the end of KC's '21st Century Schizoid Man'. An insane section with break out instrumental violence follows and then this oddity abruptly ends without warning.

What I love about this album is its unabashed unconventionality, and unashamed brutality towards music. Emotionally stirring and unforgettable, this is one of the best things to come out of Italy, along with Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and Premiata Forneri Marconi. It is adventurous and intricate fusion to the Nth degree; music that will repel some and compel others. I was totally compelled by the sheer force, the unmistakeable vigour and energy of Area.

God bless the excellent reviewers who led me to this album. It is a definitive masterpiece!

Report this review (#273817)
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Area had been one of he most important bands of the Italian prog scene of the seventies. Their debut album, "Arbeit Macht Frei", was released in 1973 for the independent label Cramps with a line up featuring Demetrio Stratos (vocals, organ), Patrizio Fariselli (piano, keyboards) Giulio Capiozzo (drums), Patrick Djivas (bass), Paolo Tofani (guitar, synthesizers) and Victor Eduard Busnello (sax and reeds). The musicians came from different experiences and the overall sound of the band was an incredible and "revolutionary" cocktail of influences ranging from Mediterranean folk to free jazz and rock, always characterized by a strong political commitment. Their producer and advisor Gianni Sassi, co-founder of the independent label Cramps, took care of the lyrics and of the art cover and could be considered as a kind of guru for the band, almost an additional member. Thanks to him the band could meet and collaborate with some exponents of the artistic avant-garde like John Cage. Area's music is challenging and never banal, lyrics are strong and in some way shocking but never vulgar...

The "explosive" opener "Luglio, agosto, settembre (nero)" (July, August, black September) deals with the Palestinian issue and terrorism and was inspired by the Munich massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics. It's a seminal and controversial track, but it's not exactly a song against terrorism. It begins with female recitative vocals in Arab. "Forget your rage / Forget your pain / Drop out your weapons / Come with me my darling / Come with me, let's live / Our cover will be the peace...". Then, on a progression of organ chords the peculiar voice of Demetrio Stratos soars describing the horror of powerful politicians playing dangerous games and the consequences of their acts... "To play with the world / Smashing it into pieces / Children that the sun / Has already turned into old men...". Then follows a section inspired by a Balkan melody where vocals state the refusal of resignation and of an unbearable peace that is the equivalent of submission... "It's not my fault if your reality / Compels me to move war to this guilty silence / Perhaps one day we will know / What does mean / To drown into the blood the whole humankind... Read into history all my pain / Look at my people / Who do not want to die... It's not my fault if your reality / Compels me to move war to the humankind". A chaotic section follows before a more melodic part and an instrumental reprise of the previous "Balkan" melody. In the early seventies Area supported the extreme left wing Italian movements that were characterized by a strong anti- Americanism and anti-Zionism. In the lyrics what prevails is a feeling of empathy with terrorists. Times have changed and today former members of Area point out that they are now against every form of violence but also that the problems generating the hate leading to terrorist attacks are not solved. As a complement for the comprehension of this track I could suggest to see Seven Spielberg's film "Munich"...

"Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes you free) is a track against capitalism. In the booklet you can see a picture where is portrayed an elegant businessman with the head of a bird of prey and the words "Arbeit macht frei". This slogan was placed at the entrances of a number of Nazi concentration camps but here it could be referred to modern factories where workers are employed on assembly lines and treated as slaves. The piece opens with a drum solo and experimental sounds, then a repetitive bass pattern comes in. Try to imagine Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times" while listening to the frantic rhythm section and to the sax evolutions... "In you miseries you will recognize / The meaning of an Arbeit macht frei / Bleak economy, daily humility / Always push you towards an Arbeit macht frei / Awareness will make you see / One more time / What is Arbeit macht frei...".

"Consapevolezza" (Awareness) is a dramatic call to revolution. Jazz rock and exotic atmospheres lead to an hypnotic rhythm pattern from where soar suggestive vocals inviting you to take a lift and go up in the sky, open your eyes and see what's happening on earth... "You will see all the bleak reality... All the love reduced into nothing... Smash merciless against the wall / Your moral that wants you still imprisoned among mediocrities... Start up and get the power!".

"Le labbra del tempo" (The lips of time) is another great and complex track featuring jazz and Mediterranean suggestions where the voice of Demetrio Stratos is perfectly at ease. It's an obscure reflection about life, time and the need to fight for your rights overcoming fears and superstitions... "Inside me / I feel that a deaf rage that is rising...".

"240 chilometri da Smirne" (240 kilometres from Izmir) is an instrumental jazz rock track where all the musician are allowed to showcase their great musicianship.

The last track, "L'abbattimento dello Zeppelin" (The shooting down of the Zeppelin), is conceived as a criticism against the music business and depicts conceited and haughty bands flying through the sky swollen by the wind, drunken of power. Here vocals are ironic and theatrical... "Everyone says that it's my fault / Everyone plays with the body deflated by the wind / That has no memory / Everyone says that it's my fault / The wind says that I will die...".

A must for every Italianprog lover

Report this review (#276492)
Posted Monday, April 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Beyond the scope of what you'd normally think of as prog rock. It's like AreA makes you believe they might be a pop group by their slogan (''International POPular Group'') only to send you into a crazy jazz fusion world akin to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but much more experimental.

The music is very hyperactive for the most part. Blistery fusion played at ridiculous speeds under the most indiscernable of time signatures is what ARBEIT MACHT FREI drives on. And AreA really makes this work well. The instrumental track ''240 Chilometri da Smirne'' is a bright testament to this featuring a rather odd (and slightly out of place) bass solo in the middle, but ending strong on an interesting chordal pattern.

The two opening tracks offer the best of what ARBEIT MACHT FREI has to offer, both songs being classic in their own right. The title track has an interesting rock riff about halfway through, but this is after an insanely pounding buildup which includes singer Demetrio Stratos playing steel drums for a bit. The opener has this high energy violin line, but the freeform breakdown in the middle is where the song is at.

The other three songs are good in their own right, but don't capture the magic the three songs I mentioned earlier. The performances to watch out for are singer Demetrio Stratos (possibly redefining the singer's role) and bassist Patrick Djivas. This album is more fusion than RPI, so be ready to be taken by surprise.

Report this review (#286449)
Posted Monday, June 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars An intense Italian prog album that resonates with a plethora of sounds, styles, feelings and textures, Area's 'Arbeit Mach Frei' is considered one of the great Italian albums from the 1970's, often mentioned in the same breath as PFM's 'Per Un Amico', Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso's 'Darwin' and Maxophone's self-titled debut. And it's easy to see(or should I say hear) why. From the Arabic-fused jazz rhythms of the album's opening bars, to the epilepsy-conjuring battery of Mahavishnu-style drums, twinkling keyboards and sassy saxophone riffs that introduce the bracing title-track, this is an album that literally grabs the listener from the start and never lets go. Each song features a multitude of interwoven sections that flow effortlessly into each other, creating a joyous prog-rock odyssey that borrows nothing from the British crowd. The level of pure invention on show is simply extraordinary, and although hints of Miles Davis, Gentle Giant and, very occasionally, Pink Floyd, can be heard through the dense musical din, Area's sound is very much of their own making. Fans of Italian prog will undoubtedly lap this sonic adventure up; fans of British prog with an open ear should, if they give the album the respect it deserves, find themselves in dreamland. The occasional pretentious moment and Demetrio Stratos' warbling vocals aside, 'Arbeit Mach Frei' is a glorious progressive statement. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Report this review (#303212)
Posted Sunday, October 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Area are a band that could fit into RPI, Fusion or RIO/Avant equally. These guys were different to most Italian bands in the 1970s. The singing style of Demetrio Stratos can be an acquired taste. Sometimes singing melodically, other times yodelling or making weird sounds. He was the most famous member of the group, also playing keyboards and percussion. The sound of Area is a mix of fusion, avant-rock and Mediterranean elements. This band was very political in the 1970s. The album title refers to the sign at Auschwitz which translates as "work will make you free".

The first song "Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)" you can listen to on PA. I think the title refers to the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The song begins with a woman talking in Arabic. Then an echoed Demetrio starts singing, being joined by some organ. Then a Middle-Eastern sounding synth line enters as the band goes into some jazz-rock. The singing parts are almost symphonic. Alternates between the two parts. Later the tempo increases and then a free avant section. Near the end the song switches to a nice symphonic part with wordless vocals, organ, synth and cymbals. Goes back to the jazz-rock part with some symphonic organ to end it.

The title track begins with random noises on different instruments, including a mini drum solo and some bird and water sounds. After awhile a hi-hat pattern, a repetative bassline and flute start to dominate. Some percussion, synth and saxophone join in. Then it goes into jazz-rock territory with Rhodes and skronking sax. After 4 minutes changes to a rockin' groove. Almost 30 seconds or so later Demetrio starts singing. Great fusion playing near the end. "Consapevolezza" is very jazzy at first. Then switches to a great part with mostly guitar and synth. Goes into a groove and the vocals begin. I like the chord changes in this part. Some wah-organ and sax soloing in the middle. Goes back to the great vocal section.

"Le Labbra Del Tempo" has a jazzy intro, then some chorused guitar, sax and vocals. Then the full band comes in doing some kind of folky/jazzy rock. Nice echoed Rhodes at one point. After a bit of cacophony, there is some lovely synth and wind chimes along with vocals. Ends with some cool fusion playing. "240 Chilometri Da Smirne" is a good instrumental fusion track. "L'abbattimento Dello Zeppelin" starts with random noises on different instruments. Then a repeated guitar figure leads the band into some jazz-rock. Eventually some great rock guitar playing. In the middle goes into a freer, spacier section with vocals dominating. Later gets more cacaphonous. Nice synth at the end.

The last two songs bring the quality and consistency of the album down a notch. Still good songs, but not as good as what came before. This was the band's debut album, and the next one is a little bit more avant than this. The music here is some great Italian-style jazzy avant-rock. This will probably appeal more to fusion lovers and avant-prog fans than to your average RPI buff. But this is great if you are familiar with the more famous RPI groups and want to try something similar, but more adventurous. This is almost a masterpiece but not quite. I would give this 4.5 but will round down to 4 stars.

Report this review (#391953)
Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Strap yourself in, the ride begins!

Area is one of the most popular and historic RPI bands of the 1970s Italian progressive rock scene. Their exciting blend of music has awarded them fans who don't normally buy Italian albums. Area's heavy and aggressive avant-jazz jacket is yet another example of how the classic RPI scene was more than the symphonic prog-rock of Banco and Orme. The band exemplified the well deserved reputation RPI had for wildness, experimental edge, and manic musical mischief. Far from being just another dry fusion band, Area wore their passion and politics on their sleeve for all to see and remain an integral band for fans of the Italian scene. All five of the band's 1970s releases were strong and vivacious titles, Area were never a band to release ho-hum material.

It's ironic that given the unique nature of Area's music I find them one of the single most difficult bands to write about. It's pretty hard to document the tracks and find the adjectives to relate how dynamic it is. So much of the album belongs to impressive instrumental freakouts, particularly enjoyable to me are the saxophone and clarinet, but really at every position, including the vocals of the incomparable Demetrio Stratos. Here Stratos sings a bit more normally than on later albums where the grunts and yodels are more prominent. This helps ground the album just enough to please a wider range of prog fans. Paulo Tofani from the RPI band Califfi has some blazing guitar here also. There are thrilling ethnic music influences and wild avant sections with sound effects subdued by flute lines at one point. All riding shotgun with a most rippin' rhythm section courtesy of drummer Giulio Capiozzo and bassist Patrick Djivas, who would soon jump ship for PFM. The substance of the album lies in its attitude and possessing the chops and sass to pull it all off. Area's debut just bounces off the walls, I can pick no favorite tracks here. This is a band that would inspire countless legions of RPI bands to follow, as well as many musicians in general. I see Area mentioned frequently when reading the influences of so many modern Italian bands.

Those who crave challenging and gonzo music will eventually find their way to Area, and all five of their classic albums are worth your time. I would start here because this is a great album and because it's always fun to follow a band in chronological order. While it is tragic that Stratos died so young, I really don't think it's bad that Area stopped when they did. They left an amazing cache of albums that an extended career into the minefield of the 80s could not have hoped to match. Sometimes brevity of band is not a bad thing---burn bright when the ideas and friendships are hot and call it a day. Area would go on for a bit without the full line-up but the fine '78 album is pretty much the unofficial conclusion of the vital catalog most fans praise. 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#414561)
Posted Friday, March 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Arbeit Macht Frei is about as interesting of a listen as I expected. Wildly eccentric avant jazz is the best way that I can describe this music. I've been a fan of Deus Ex Machina for some time, and I've read elsewhere that this band was an obvious influence on their sound, so I felt compelled to check out Area's debut album.

I was initially put off by the spoken intro, but then the wildly jazzy music and bizarre Stratos vocals of the opener track, "Luglio Agosto Settembre", fill my head. I love music that is jazzy at its base, so after hearing this track I knew that deciding to listen to Area was a great choice.

The title track starts off with a bombardment of percussion and a strangely funky bassline; right away I recognized that this was probably going to be a free jazz influenced track. It turned out not to be quite free jazz, but more jazz fusion as it developed a solid structure with a nice groove and wild sax noodling. Stratos eventually starts singing soulfully near the end of the song. His voice is very unique but it fits this music very well.

The first minute or so of "Consapevolezza" reminds me of a more exuberant Goblin track with it's driving funkiness, but Stratos' unique vocals change that almost instantly. This track contains a very soothing passage of sax solo and steady drumming, but gradually picks up and turns frantic until the end.

A few measure of disjointed post-bop mark the start of "Le Labbra Del Tempo", but soon becomes subdued while Stratos croons powerfully over light sax playing and driving basslines. The bassline that stands out in the middle section of this tracks particularly reminds me of Percy Jones' work in the band Tunnels, which is definitely a compliment. After reading the reviews by other members of this site, I didn't expect so many beautiful passages on this album, but when the synths pick up near the end of this song it definitely gets beautiful.

"240 Chilometri da Smirne" is purely a fantastic jazz-fusion affair with an exceptional groove. This track is incredibly groovy and can really get your body moving. There isn't much more to say about this track other than it is pure enjoyment for this prog fan.

The finale, "L'Abbattimento Dello Zeppelin", is one of the more avant tracks on the album, but there are short bursts between groovy jazz and avant madness that make this track seem like a noisy adventure. The track ends the album with rather avant taste, but there isn't really any other way that I can think of to end the album.

I'm convinced that any jazz-fusion fan would find much to love about this album, and is definitely the jazziest RPI album I've heard so far. Area is truly one of a kind band, save for maybe Deus Ex Machina (but they came many, many years later and are much less avant). This album is thoroughly fantastic and I highly suggest giving it a listen.

Report this review (#435387)
Posted Monday, April 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A bona fide, certifiable masterpiece! From Italia! And not RPI! The mixing and recording of this album are amazingly clear and balanced for a 70s record. Though the album opens with an obviously ethnic folk-based tune, "Luglio, ..." (8/10), and the last song, "L'abbattimento ..." (8/10) leans heavily toward the avante garde, the center three songs, "Arbeit..." (9/10), "Consapevolezza " (10/10), and "240 chilometri..." (10/10), deposit, IMHO, some of the tightest, most enjoyable jazz grooves of the 60s or 70s. All performers test the creative boundaries of their respective means of expressivity--voice (à la LEON THOMAS), guitars, woodwinds, keys, bass, and even drums are all "out there." The grooves laid down in "Consapevolezza" at the 1:25 and 2:15 marks are among the prettiest I've ever heard.

Having loved the vocal talents and stylings of Leon Thomas for many years, I was immediately into Demetrio Stratus's singing. Such emotion and passion! As if his soul is on fire! Without question a masterpiece of progressive music if ever there was one!

Report this review (#459479)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is not what you'd expect. I think that's the first thing to note about it. RPI is typically noteworthy for its strong classical influences, a trait more easily understood within the wider context of the broader nostalgia present in the Italian mindset, the feeling that as things are, so must they be left to be. The strongly left-wing Area, by contrast, have constructed a very jazz-fuelled album, something, perhaps, reminiscent of an Italian cross between Gentle Giant and Gong. The title, of course, comes from its ironic use atop the gates of Dachau, before it's more iconic display as the 'motto' of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It's use here provides a core to the bands hatred of right wing politics.

Musically, the proceedings are dominated by jazzy saxophones, infinitely funky bass noodlings, and the intriguing voice of Demetrio Stratos. Noted for his research into vocal variation and the limits (or lack thereof) of the human voice, Stratos is able to produce a spectrum of unusual sounds from his mouth, creating an interesting foil for the jazzy saxophones. The music is highly varied, full of a kind of symbolic anarchy in a subgenre dominated by neoclassical traditionalism and order.

This isn't the best RPI album you'll ever hear; as I said, for one thing, it doesn't really fit the RPI mould properly - but it is interesting, and holds up well to repeated listens. Indeed, it virtually demands at least a handful of spins on the deck to get to grips with the complexity and sense of liberation it has to offer. It's not unique, but it is plenty unusual enough to justify its healthy position in the RPI rankings, offering as it does an individual flavour.

3.5/5, but, I'll be generous and round up rather than down.

Report this review (#502803)
Posted Sunday, August 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars At a time when most RPI bands were worshipping at the altar of Trespass-era Genesis, Area provided a breath of fresh air. Their major inspiration appears to have been Frank Zappa's work, particularly the fusion of Hot Rats to the classical-free jazz mashups of Uncle Meat, Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh. The major difference is that, firstly, Area generally play louder and heavier and more aggressively than the original Mothers of Invention did, and secondly keyboards and synthesisers crop up a bit more than in the Mothers' material - though Area are generally far less keyboard-reliant than most other RPI bands of the time. This will be a shock to the system if you are expecting something along the lines of Banco, PFM or Le Orme, but fusion fans will find a lot to like here.
Report this review (#512641)
Posted Thursday, September 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars This debut albums made immediately clear what the Area were capable of. Demetrio Stratos was previously the singer of a pop-beat band called "I Ribelli" that released a very successful single, "Pugni Chiusi". Demetrio's voice was the principal element in that success.

The album, but also the band are sons of their times. In the country there's a dark atmosphere of class struggles and a military putsch has been recently attempted like that of the "colonels" in Greece. The international scene is not better with a new war in Palestine and the embargo over oil put in place by the OPEC.

Area debut with an album whose title is the infamous German sentence that was on the gate of Auschwitz: "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work makes free) but is opened by the song that will become one of the most famous songs of the band: "Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)". (July, August, September(Black)). The reference is the Palestinian organization called "Black September" to remember the repression put in place in 1970 by King Hussain of Jordan after some terrorist attacks. It starts with an Arabian speech and please don't ask me what that woman says. It looks like a lament for somebody's death, some Habibi maybe, but if any Arab speaking friend has the album please let us know. Then organ and Stratos stars the song with the sentence "Playing with the world cutting it into pieces". The famous main theme reminds Arabian music but the track has strong jazz-rock connotations and when it goes chaotic seems they want to represent a market place or even a riot. After the short chaotic free-jazz moment the song returns to the main theme until the conclusion. Who was actually expecting something like "I Ribelli" (The Rebels) has already understood that this album doesn't have anything to do with them.

A drum solo opens the title track the it turns into a very dark jazzy mood that may remind to early Soft Machine. This track is about the Holocaust, like they wanted to balance the previous song that was in favour of the Palestinian Fedayyins. Bass drums and sax are the protagonists of this track together with the incredible voice of Demetrio Stratos. Fans of Canterbury and Avant should try this album. I'm not sure that RPI is the right place for this band.

There's initially more swing on "Consapevolezza" (Awareness) but after the intro it becomes darker and bluesy. It's a sort of invitation to gain awareness of our current status and reach the "power". It's not clear from those hermetic lyrics if the power is intended in a symbolic newage sense or if it is related to a possible revolution.

"Le Labbra del Tempo" (The lips of Time) has an orchestral jazz intro, then guitar,sax and Stratos introduce a rock section in 5/4 (but the signatures change very often) that has a Canterbury flavor. Impressive bass throughout the whole track. The lyrics are very hermetic: "Only who is naked can understand what your brutal force communicates" The final section with keyboards reminding of Vangelis (Albedo 0.39 as reference) over which Demetrio Stratos shows all his talent, lead to a jazz-rock crescendo that closes the track.

"L'Abbattimento dello Zeppelin" (The Zeppelin's Breakdown). Stratos nitially sings vocalisms. The intro is very avant, nearly contemporary classic, then it turns into an acid rock with hints of psychedelia. After an explosion Demetrio Stratos makes vocal experiments. He speaks. It's a poem but his voice and the instruments here play something that Luigi Nono would surely like. Until the second and third explosions that close it.

"240 Chilometri da Smirne"(240 Kilometers from Smyrne) Opens as an uptime avant-jazz piece with the sax making incredible things, then there's an impressive bass solo. This is the only fully instrumental track and in some parts looks like a jazz improvisation. It's incredibly good. There's still a Canterbury mood, I often think to Soft Machine.

There's nothing of the symphonic RPI here. This is a jazz-rock masterpiece. While the Stormy Six where still playing popular folk songs, the Area were already an avant band and I'm quite sure that Stormy Six are in debt with this band for their conversion from folk to avant-jazz which led them to the RIO event.

Arbeit Macht Frei is a milestone for the Italian music other than a masterpiece. The music is so good that you can totally ignore the poetry and the political contents and just enjoy it, then think that other than the music there's a bit more inside.

Report this review (#537626)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A really tight and concise debut album from these talented Italian musicians. So much so that three of them would go on to release solo LP's.

Quite like 'Magma' in certain parts, this goes borderline crazy, therefore I don't recommend playing this at work. There's a heavy emphasis on Avant Garde Fusion throughout. 'Arbeit Macht Frei' is one of the most radical Italian Prog albums available

Well, we all know what the title means so lets just skip that or else we'll just get into a fight. Good cover though eh?

Demetrios Stratos, as usual, sounds like a yodelling Tarzan on steroids, beating his chest as chimpanzees try to steal his collection of coconuts and berries.

This first 'Area' album is notable in that it has Patrick Djivas on bass who would later become more well known for his contributions with 'Premiata Forneria Marconi'

'Arbeit Macht Frei' was issued on the brilliant 'Cramps' label, which is more well known for their far more tuneless experimental recordings. This album has dated pretty well on the whole where at all times Demetrios Stratos, the Egyptian born Greek singer is the star... the main event.

Hats off to poor Demetrios who died at far too young an age.

Report this review (#813062)
Posted Friday, August 31, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Few albums have touched me the way "Arbeit Macht Frei" and the voice of Demetrio Stratos has. We are seeing a musical group of political bias and probably the most successful when it comes to extend the quality of music to a political message.

AREA is a communist group (or at least with Marxist ideals) seeking to play the various facets of the unjust capitalist world and, preferably, singing the revolution (as later succeeded in "Crac!").

The effort would be worthy of praise. But AREA do not need praise for effort. What you get in their sound is the strength, the muscles of Stratos, the technology of Tofani, the global chords of Fariselli and the broken and steady pace of Giulio Capiozzo.

AREA sang a revolution which unfortunately has not occurred yet, but the exploitation of man by man still follows. In this sense, this masterpiece of AREA is even more present and makes more sense for us than the celebration of the revolutions of the the mid-70s that we saw in "Crac!".

5 stars do not talk enough about these excelent musicians and great revolutionaries.

Report this review (#1021901)
Posted Thursday, August 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars This album and this group blow me away. They managed to create a unique and avant-garde sound at the very peak of experimental progressive music while most Italian prog bands were going the PFM route. A lot of this clearly has to do with the virtuosic crazed yodeling vocal acrobatics of Demtrio Stratos, but the entire band deserves equal recognition for one of the most original, spastic and bizaare debut albums i've heard even to this day. Everyone's just plain nuts! But in a good way.

The album starts off with a prayer in Arabic and then the first track "Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (nero)" (based on a Macedonian folk song) begins. It's apparent from the get-go that this is some unique stuff. After the rather structured first track, we then get the more avant-prog-jazz-fusion side of AREA. Although it sounds like other jazz-fusion bands seem to have been the main inspiration, AREA clearly found their own sound early on by upping everything a few notches. They were more aggressive, had more odd time signatures, more solos, were more experimental and had the unmatched vocals which certainly meant they had a sound no one else could touch. The production on this album is also amazing for its time.

A true innovator of avant-prog with politically charged socialist leaning lyrics (in Italian), this is clearly a work of equal parts dedicated passion and crazed frenetic hyperactivity. Since i've discovered this band they have become one of my all time favorites. This debut album is a bonfide masterpiece to my ears.

Report this review (#1080964)
Posted Sunday, November 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Being a big fan of RPI and especially the band Area, it's about time I review my favourite album of theirs, Arbeit Macht Frei. After discovering PFM, Banco and Le Orme, and realizing that I really like Italian Prog, I began to look for other band in the RPI genre, and one of the first band I tried was Area. There is a Prog Rock music store in Montréal, yes we have that kind of store in Montréal, where I usually get my Prog CD/DVD. By going there often, I became very friendly with the owner, and one of the first thing he suggest me, as one of the essential RPI album to get, was Arbeit Macht Frei. He was right, not the only time he will be.

To get the music of Area, you got to have an ear for Jazz, world and experimental music, because it's not your regular kind of Prog. They will mix arabic motif with jazz groove, or do beats with white noise etc? The essential part of Area is naturally the incredible voice of the late Demetrio Stratos. What a voice!!! He's IMO one of the best singer in music, being prog or not, making his death, like Hendrix or Bob Marley, another big lost in music.

Arbeit Macht Frei is the first album by Area and my personal favourite of theirs. Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero) start the album with the voice of a girl speaking in arab, then fallow with a great arabic riff, wow! If that riff doesn't do anything for you, stop there, I doubt you'll like the rest. What a great intro piece, it grabs you instantly and never let you breath. Then you have the title track, Arbeit Macht Frei, my favourite of the album, it may start slow but when the main riff start, it never let you go, the last riff of the song with Demetrio singing on top of it is amazing, one of the best riff in music, especially when the keyboard solo enters, sorry Yes, but you are not the only band to have a amazing keyboard solo under an amazing riff. If the album was only the first 2 songs, it would still have a 5 star resting from me, but no, you still have 4 other masterpiece to go. Consapevolezza, the third song is tour de force vocally speaking + another amazing riff and a beautiful sax solo, so perfect, so it, this is my definition of what good music is and should always be. Next, Le Labbra Del Tempo, may be more traditional in therm of Prog Rock but with Demetrio, it's nothing but traditional, great Rhodes solo at the end. 240 Chilometri Da Smirne is a great followup to Le Labbra Del Tempo, very Jazz rock/Fusion, lots of sax and great bass groove and it as the distinctive to be instrumental. L'Abbattimento Dello Zeppelin might be the most experimental song of the album, a great way to finish one the greatest album in Rock history.

5 Stars, Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music

Report this review (#1298028)
Posted Monday, October 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
Avant, Crossover & Neo Teams
4 stars Made sure Demetrio was a great singer, a great performer, a great voice percussionist, and a great Italian gem. AREA is one of the first jazz rock artists I'd got immersed in drastically, and "Arbeit Macht Frei" is definitely one of my favourite albums. Demetrio should be kinda killa indeed, and his splendidly energetic mantra could not be created without perfect instrumental basis performed by other musical residents. The ultimate instrumental / sound-oriented union play extensive expensive popular music (as they say) as if they would dance upon such a complicated turf, and Demetrio's funky, eccentric voice instrument unifies the superb combo as a hero.

Let me mention here the third track "Consapevolezza", my No. 1 item made in Italy. Crazy saxophone sounds, refined rhythm basis, and sensitive, sensual, sensational voices chase each other in a parallel direction. The musical formation might be simple, but the melody lines be not at all ... with a variety of music essence (jazz, avantgarde, psychedelic, folk ...) and all are extremely powerful. "240 Chilometri Da Smirne" is another bomb. Their play stability in a complicated, convoluted space is awesome really. Sounds like their rigidity could be heard along 240 kilometer ahead, that is, their play and creation should be incredibly energetic.

Of course as everyone says the titled track should be the masterpiece featuring their magnificent intention along with all of their (not only musical but also of life) elements. "Frei" might be their (especially Demetrio's) claim and attitude. To listen to this stuff could be one of the easiest ways to understand them for the audience I imagine. Reasonable and analyzable, and reliable in the RPI scene. It's surprising and amazing they stood the point of progressive departure with this splendid album. Yes we should enjoy it.

Report this review (#1609877)
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review Nº 148

'Arbeit Macht Frei' is the debut studio album of Area and was released in 1973. The line up on the album is Demetrio Stratos (vocals, organ and steel drums), Giampaolo Tofani (guitar and synthesizer), Patrizio Fariselli (piano), Eddie Busnello (saxophone), Patrick Djivas (bass and double bass) and Giulio Capiozzo (drums and percussion).

This wasn't their original line up. In 1972 the pianist was Leandro Gaetano and the guitarist was Johnny Lambizzi instead of Patrizio Fariselli and Giampaolo Tofani. On the other hand, this was the only album with the participation of bassist Patrick Djivas, who left the band to be a member of Premiata Forneria Marconi and which was replaced by Ares Tavolazzi. And it was the only participation on the group of the saxophonist Eddie Busnello, that wouldn't be replaced.

'Arbeit Macht Frei' is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the progressive Italian rock from the 70's. Their music shows all their expressive potential like jazz, ethnic music and rock in its experimental research. The album is a manifesto of their nervous and cutting style. Their music is taken up sometimes to strange and 'oriental' forms. 'Arbeit Macht Frei' is called by the critics, 'radical music' because it tends to go to the roots of the political significance of the Pop movement. Shining in the uncommon progressive set-folk of Area is especially Stratos. Stratos was able to develop an extraordinary vocal technique, which included the use of diplofonie and an harmonic voice, as well as a vocal extension almost unattainable. It can be said that he was one of the best singers of all time, with a unique and original singing.

'Arbeit Macht Frei' has six tracks. The first track 'Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)' is a song with its lyrics about the black September of 1972 when the Palestinians committed terrorist attacks. The track begins with an Arab feminine voice reciting a poem. Musically, it's a very difficult song to describe and we must to hear it to understand it. It seems to be built around ethnic and traditional music, probably from Greece. Definitely, this song represents, without any doubt, one their finest musical moments. The second track is the title track 'Arbeit Macht Frei'. It's a song with strong political lyrics and which ironically its title was taken from the very well known Nazi motif on the entrance of the infamous death camp Auschwitz, in Poland. Musically it's a completely different musical proposal from their previous debut song. It's a song very close to avant-garde jazz, very innovative, and which begin to typify the band to a new and unconventional musical approach. It's another great and strong song of the album. The third track 'Consapevolezza', lyrically is a dramatically call to the revolution. Musically, is a fantastic jazz/rock song with plenty of some exotic musical atmospheres, that binds us to the song, and it has also a real hypnotic musical rhythm and the suggestive vocals invite us to freedom. The fourth track 'Le Labbra Del Tempo' is another great and complex song also influenced by jazz and with a very good and interesting rock section. It's a song that changes very often of its musical structure. This is a song with great musical passages and where the lyrics show an obscure reflection about the life and the time, and that we all should fight by our human rights and let ourselves free of superstitions and old beliefs. The fifth track '240 Chilometri Da Smirne' is the only fully instrumental track on the album. This is an avant-garde jazz piece of music with an incredible saxophone work. It's a song that, in many parts, seems to be a completely free jazz improvisation and it's incredibly a very good song. This is pure musical enjoy for any truly progressive fan, especially for jazz rock fans. The sixth and last track 'L'Abbattimento Dello Zeppelin' is for me the most avant-garde music on the album. It's a song with many experimental musical noises of different musical instruments, including the voice of Demetrio Stratos. This is a very weird and bizarre song with some musical changes all over the song. It's an insane song with vocal echoes, some musical explosions, strange instrumental sounds and which abruptly ends without warning. This is a strange, and at the same time, a coherent way to close this progressive masterpiece. It's one of the best improvised tracks, indeed.

Conclusion: The band members like to describe themselves as an International POPular group because they said that Area was a band that creates music for the people and for the masses and not for the elites. Sincerely and in general, I agree with them. However, with 'Arbeit Macht Frei' I don't know if that is completely true. In reality, 'Arbeit Macht Frei' is a truly and pure jazz rock/fusion album, and in my humble opinion, it's one of the best releases of that sub-genre ever made. 'Arbeit Macht Frei' is, without any doubt, one of the greatest progressive albums made in the 70's. However, I must confess that I always preferred their third studio album 'Crac !'. 'Crac !' was my third album in my progressive collection and was also my first contact with the band. Perhaps that is the reason why 'Crac !' remains for be my favourite musical work from them. Still, 'Arbeit Macht Frei' is a truly masterpiece of the band, putting Area at the same level of their compatriots of the 70's, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Forneria Marconi and Le Orme.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1827027)
Posted Monday, November 27, 2017 | Review Permalink

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