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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Italy continues to lead

Across the progressive landscape, the bands of Italy continue to help lead the way providing some of the most exciting and vibrant releases of recent years. In a music world where too many corners succumb to formula many Italian bands continue to thrive while releasing material that thumbs its nose at the rules. With their 4th album D.F.A. has delivered an album sure to thrill the fusion fans in their audience and perhaps further out across the genre spectrums. The band comes off a long break in new studio material that they attribute to domestic demands and real-life creep, something many musicians deal with at one time or another. But unlike the many artists who begin to lose their touch after domestic bliss takes over, D.F.A. have delivered an album that sounds completely alive and refreshed.

Giving my usual disclaimer, I'm not a jazz expert and frankly not the biggest fan of fusion and jazz in general.and still I enjoyed this quite a lot. I always appreciate musicians in this area for their technical ability but often find their type of jamming to get old fairly quickly. Some of these bands can get pretty cold and dry emotionally despite their supercharged instrumental proficiency. D.F.A. finds the sweet spot by breaking out of the shred rut long enough to involve us emotionally and by incorporating traditional progressive elements into the mix. In the album's second half, they begin to try some different things that were really intriguing to me and I hope they pursue that kind of approach more in the future. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Their 4th album, already being hailed as one of the year's best albums by some is a very friendly and accessible instrumental (largely) album. The material is written by keyboardist Alberto Bonomi and drummer Alberto De Grandis. A good portion of the album is the adventurous forays of these two, along with guitarist Silvio Minella and bassist Luca Baldassari, as they balance the tight and the ferocious with the delicate and measured. Rather than catering only to the shred-hounds, D.F.A. masterfully measure the bombast and deliver the fireworks thoughtfully. Often times my favorite moments of jamming would be enhanced by their decision for a space with some piano, flute, or strings. These guys have the chops of groups like Karcius but they soften the approach like my namesake Finnforest did back on their '70s albums. But the highlight of the album for me is the last track "La Ballata De S'isposa E Mannorri." According to the band's notes this is an adaptation of a Sardinian oral poem about real life events from the 1700s where a woman betrayed in love led to a blood feud and the eventual disappearance of a village. The band skillfully incorporates the superb vocals of a band called Andhira and intentional or not, these rhythmic female vocals for me had the feel of what Oldfield used to do back in the Ommadawn-Incantations period with voice, even though obviously the two artists are miles apart in sound. Really some neat stuff. So imagine rocking through nearly an hour of inspired and joyful interplay to be treated to such a finale. A great touch and it tells me this band should try more melding of other styles into their jazzy rock in the future. Not a masterpiece to me personally (though it will be to many fusion fans I predict!) but a fine record in any book.

The one gripe I'll mention (I have to find something.) is the digipak release and rather underwhelming artwork. Digipaks are just the worst but I'll save that rant for the forums. Congrats guys on a solid and enjoyable album. A true must for all of the fusion and jazz/rock prog fans out there. 7/10

Report this review (#174498)
Posted Thursday, June 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Been looking forward to this one after enjoying their previous two albums immensley. There's been a buzz about this one as well in Prog-circles, so I was salivating. It would be fair to say that these guys have made each album a little different from the previous one. This is my least favourite of the three as it turns out, but still a solid 4 star album. Edit April 4th 2012. It is now my favourite of the three and I would rate this at 4.5 stars.

"Baltasaurus" is over 14 minutes of fusion. I love the intro because it reminds me of the band ONE SHOT. I really like the organ before 2 1/2 minutes and the drums are killer ! A beautiful collage of sounds follows. I like the calm with flute 5 1/2 minutes in. These guys really contrast well that sort of usual fusion i'm used to with outbursts of organ, guitar and drums. Check out the drumming before 9 minutes. More great organ before 13 minutes. Nice. "Flying Trip" is more laid back with liquid keys and gentle guitar. Flute and bass follow. Guitar before 2 minutes. Synths lead the way until the guitar takes over that roll. Piano and mellotron 5 minutes in with guitar right on their heels.

"Vietato Generalizzare" hits the ground running. Organ and drums lead the way early. Nice.The guitar comes ripping in before mellotron and drums take over 1 1/2 minutes in. A mellow section before 2 1/2 minutes before it kicks back in. The rest of the song is just a pleasure to listen to as the drums, guitar and organ are all outstanding. "Mosoq Runa" is a 19 minute ride that opens with some relaxing piano. It starts to slowly build as piano continues. A change 3 1/2 minutes in to a darker more atmospheric sound. Nice. It becomes uptempo 5 minutes in with some excellent organ 5 1/2 minutes in and before 7 minutes. Another calm after 8 1/2 minutes as it starts to build again. Relaxing guitar 15 minutes in. A calm with piano 17 minutes in as mellotron rolls in. Flute follows as piano continues to the end.

"The Mirror" is the first song with some vocals. Percussion and synths help out. A change 1 1/2 minutes in as it becomes dreamy. He's singing in English on this song. Guitar after 3 minutes as some nice bass lines come in with pounding drums. A change 5 minutes in as the rest of the song is all-instrumental, allowing these guys show us how well they can play. Check out the drumming during the last minute. "La Ballata De S'isposa 'E Mannorri" features the vocals of a band called ANDHIRA. We get three vocals singing here. The vocal arrangements are something else. Some guitar before 3 1/2 minutes, but this is all about the vocals. Violin and cellos late.

I sense that this is a more mature effort from the band. Not as dynamic or powerful as the previous two albums.

Report this review (#182556)
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars D.F.A. is one of the most wonderful things that have happened to Italy regarding progressive rock music in the last 15 years. Together with bands such as Stereokimono, Deus Ex Machina, Aviolinee Utopia, Periferia del Mondo, Fonderia and others, D.F.A. have constantly greeted attentive prog listeners around the globe with a creative way of reassuring old influences and bringing them under a new light of refreshing energy and genuine power. Being their third studio effort, but also having a live album in their back catalogue, the guys of D.F.A. decided to call their 2008 album "4th", in pure Soft Machine fashion (I seriously doubt that they may have Chicago as a major point of reference, but anyway.). This is a 2008 masterpiece, this I do not doubt for a second. The album kicks off the 14+ minute long 'Baltasaurus'. It starts quite mysterious, with bass and electric piano washes anticipating the controlled density of the initial lead guitar phrases. Drums keep a strongly jazzy, and sometime the flute draws some exquisite flourishes; once these are ended, the main body is stated as an exercise on jazz-prog in pure D.F.A. style, with elements of 80s Holdsworth and 70s Return to Forever brought in for good effect. The synth solos that succeed each other from minute 5 are simply lovely, turning from whimsical to epic, while the drum kit, bass and Hammond organ build a strong basic cadence. Once the guitar rejoins, the usual power returns with a vengeance, never too oppressive, always allowing the track's constant swing to go on breathing fluidly. The passage that gets started just before the 7'30" mark is more spacey, related to Hillage-era Gong and the jazzier side of Ozric Tentacles (a thing that had been very present in the band's second studio effort). Once the jazz-rock factor returns to the fore, the spacey element remains in the shape of wind-emulating synth effects that flow beneath the tour-de- force designed by drum kit-bass-organ-guitar. 'Flying Trip' brings a more serene mood, in this way emphasizing the sense of sheer elegance that D.F.A. has as one of its major assets. Right after the 2'30. mark, things will get a tad wilder, but it is basically a particular development of the basic jam into an expansion of its potential intensity. This track is very lyrical, all in all, beautiful without being precisely soft or corny. And then. 'Vietato Generalizzare' gets started and the listener's ears starts to get excited - no other can be the band's aim when the track starts with a sudden climax of jazz-meets heavy prog, abruptly, without warning, yet not driving you away but captivating you with its clever complexity. The guitar assumes the starring role in this exhibition of delirious power coherently framed in a recognizable scheme: imagine the bombastic trend of ELP and the vintage heavy rocking side of Planet-X, mingle them with a bit of classic Mahavishnu Orchestra's rockier side, and voila, you have it figured out. 'Mosoq Runa', which lasts almost 19 minutes, starts with a lovely, tranquil piano piece completed with guest violin and cello. Once the whole ensemble settles in, the overall mood remains introspective, but the fuller sonic structure hints at a more energetic attitude. At the 3'30", a shift turns into a groovier motif (fusion with noticeable funky undertones), preceded by a soft build-up. Some intermissions bring back some of the previous tranquility, but mostly, this track tends to preserve and even build up on the recurrent groove. Before getting to the fifteenth minute, things shift toward a slow, ceremonious motif featuring a soaring lead guitar and majestic mellotron-like keyboard layers: soon we learn that this is the threshold to the coda, which is a reprise of the beautiful opening theme. 'The Mirror' has a heavily ethnic vibe to it, with pronounced Arabic tones: the track's nucleus is evidently fusion-centered, but it is also worth mentioning that the mellotron-like layers bring an additional cosmic atmosphere, and the lead guitar helps the whole ensemble to bring out some heaviness in some passages. This track can be hypothetically described as a combo of Mahavishnu (drums and bass) and Return to Forever (keyboards and guitar) playing some lost track from Weather Report's "Mysterious Traveller" sessions. Arguably, this track comprises the best drumming in the entire album. The last 6 ź minutes of "4th" are occupied by 'La Ballata de S'isposa 'e Mannorri', a lovely song featuring guests on vocals (a singing trio), violin and cello. This track can be related to stuff by Periferia del Mondo, in which the fusion element gives dominant room to Mediterranean folk: in fact, the track's lyrics are based on an old Italian community's oral tradition. Lovely, really lovely, a beautiful end for a brilliant album: D.F.A. rules!
Report this review (#188735)
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Third studio album from this Verona quartet with an unchanged line-up, although their lengthy silence had us fearing the worst as it had been almost mime years since Duty Free Area. Aside from some erratic festival appearance and a Live album dating from '02, the only thing we had was their new label Moonjune re-issuing in '07 their first two album in a compilation with bonus live tracks, but it left us clueless as to their adventures. Rest assured in the spring of '08 cane out their fourth album (in all) with a rather ugly squared off artwork, but the music was anything but worrisome, because the main songwriters remain drummer De Grandis and keyboardist Bonomi.

Indeed, musically DFA is still sounding quite the same as they did in their first two album, developing a symphonic jazz-rock somewhere between Canterbury (I am thinking of the US group Volaré) and Gentle Giant, and the opening Baltasaurus fits exactly that description. After the much gentler (if you'll except the crunchy riff guitar) almost 8-mins Flying Trip, Standing out a bit, the almost 7-mins Vietato Generalizzare is more in the ELP or Egg mode, even though there is plenty of guitars, but the organ fireworks is more reminiscent of early Emerson or early Dave Stewart. The obvious centrepiece' of this album is the 19 minutes Mosoq Runa, which was long in to finalize as its writing dates back from '04, but it's obvious that keyboardist Bonomi is a slow worker in these matters, but his results are outstanding. This is a piano (ac or el) gargantuan feast (as well as other KBs) with the odd flute bit that never stops dazzling and the added string arrangements (just a cello and a violin) bring it even more to notice.

The last two tracks are sung, the first by drummer De Grandis and in English, but it comes down to one verse at the start of the 10 minutes of The Mirror, so soft you don't really realize it. The track is mostly an improvisation in its second part, disappearing into a drum solo. The closing track is quite different, Ballate starting on some Hackettian guitar lines, before triple female folk & classical (polyphony) vocals and string arrangements. It is a bit "hors-propos" from the usual DFA, and I'm glad they left it out until last on this album, so it doesn't disturb the album's smooth flow of the other tracks. Well almost nine years after Duty Free Area, 4th is much in the same, probably a tad better. DFA is probably my fave Italian band from the 90's and 00's and is consistently at the top, even if there was a quiet period.

Report this review (#197130)
Posted Sunday, January 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hey guys! This is a classic. I'm a huge Prog fan. 46 Years old, Old school, but not so old school that I don't appreciate Porcupine Tree, Mars Volta and even a little Spocks Beard or Dream Theater now and then. I've got most of the old great stuff from the 70s, and let me tell you. I think this is the best Prog album since The Wall. So the best Prog album in 28 years. And if you don't consider The Wall Prog, than lets say its the best Prog album since 1975's Wish You Were Here. Best Prog album in 33 Years!! OK you don't think Floyd is Prog, well you're wrong, but then lets say its the best Prog album since Lamb Lies Down On Broadway in 1974. 34 years!! Its just that great.

Possibly you prefer a little more metal or hystronic vocals in your Prog. Well then this largely instrumental, yet guitar based music, won't be your favorite Prog album in 34 years, but if you dig the Canterbury bands, Passport, Bruford, Brand X, Weather Report, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Yes, I promise you'll love this masterpiece. Its almost fusion, but stays firmly on Progfirma! I don't know how they did it. Composing songs that bring out the best in what we love about 70s Prog, yet updating the sounds somewhat to be very now. Just great music, for people who need a little more than the pop chords/arrangements in their diet.

Easily my favorite album (of any genre) of 2008. I just hope the boys in D.F.A. can read the great reviews they're getting here and places like, so they know they're reaching people. If have 4000 CDs/Lps of all genres, and its hard to get this boy too excited (this is my first review for this blog) these days, but D.F.A. did it for me. (can they read English? I hope so)

Report this review (#198946)
Posted Tuesday, January 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Whenever it comes to instrumental music, I typically compare the music with the one that really inspires me in terms of great composition. One song that I can make as reference is Bill Bruford's 'Fainting in Coils' and Chick Corea 'Compadres'. Well man ... it's hard to really beat this masterpiece, wonderfully crafted composition! I have not found any intrumental that can match those two songs. Well, if you consider Chick Corea 'Dear Alice' as an instrumental work, I count it as masterpiece also. They are all fabulous. But 'Dear Alice' (from The Mad Hatter labum) is the music of all time for me as it has top notch composition which sets no follower at all because it's so perfect!

What about this album of DFA? There is no single track that can match the tracks I mention above. But, I find this album is an excellent one considering the composition and performance of the musicians. It lacks catchy melody, actually .. but it's alright because the album also gives us excellent combination in terms of harmony and complexity. The whole album sounds to me like a musical jam session as there is no solid melody where the music is built around it. The harmonies between all instruments being used and also the complexity have made a high mark in terms of musical quality. If you like how each instrument contributes in the music making you will find yourself satisfied. I actually prefer the one that includes solid melody like the three tracks I mention above as key reference. This album also has a solid structural integrity as far as each song or the whole album.

The intertwining roles of guitar and keyboard make a unique music of DFA especially when it's combined with dynamic drumming and bass guitar work. The drum is also played dynamically as it provides like a 'fill' during transition pieces. If you like jazz rock fusion this is one of the bands worth considering. Overall, it's an excellent album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#244557)
Posted Tuesday, October 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I am severely tempted in anointing an unprecedented 5 stars to the third album (called Fourth, as there was a live one in the interval) to Italian supergroup DFA, simply blown by the sheer quality of their sympho-jazz fusion. I have a manic tendency to gush effusively and adorn a cosmos-load of shiny asteroids on anything prog but I won't harden now, quite to the contrary. Lavori in Corso and the self-titled Duty Free Area are monster recordings of a quartet in full mastery of their craft and this work is bolted down with confident authority. "Baltasaurus" is a whopping 14 minute exercise in exquisite groove moods, rippling fast and quirky, shuffled along by some inspired drumming from composer Alberto de Grandis , bubbling synths that emit a jazzier aroma of Ozric Tentacles in the way the Luca Baldassari bass just carves the path effortlessly. Guitarist Silvio Minella can rock with the best, a raunchier version of John Goodsall of Brand X fame, laying down some fiery furrows, blistering leads and unexpected flair. Finally, keyboardist Alberto Bonomi uses his vast array to decorate the sonic temple, Hammond organ being his prime tool for colorations. At times, there seems to be a blend of Focus and Mahavishnu Orchestra in which the pace can be heavily jam-oriented but always within a tight symphonic packaging. The flute makes a convenient appearance on the dreamy "Flying Trip", a rustling slice of guitar aerobatics within the sunlit keyboard-driven expanse, the Fender Rhodes electric piano doing some massive collateral damage in the process. I know I mentioned it somewhere in a review before but the e-piano is my newfound "chérie", just loves that fuzzy tone. Bonomi tantalizes with a spirited piano solo before redirecting the arrangement into the earlier glory, giving this such a shimmering luster. "Vietato Generalizzare" (Forbidden to Generalize) gets swiftly into the playful romp mode, extremely complex and polygonal, with all players hungrily adding their grain of salt to the pot. Fans of technical prog will not be disappointed nor temporally defused from the interminable volcanic flow, a standard- setting musical philosophy that has been there since the debut album. Frightfully succulent stuff this but let's agree that the club bunny ladies will find here little to enjoy, being astronomically far removed from Lady Gaga! This is not eating, drinking, loving or chilling (hate that word!) music, DFA demand a captive ear and a receptive mind to truly appreciate their creative expressions. The sweeping "Mosoq Runa" is the monster epic, clocking in over 18 minutes and stamping this album with overt prog credentials, garlanded by luxuriant symphonics (cellos and violins) and a serene flute passages, while the e-piano drips resoundingly. The composition morphs into an upbeat Hammond splurge, where Minella can really stretch out and have his fingers fly convincingly over the fretboard. Again the confidence level is soothingly arrogant, where poise, emotion and adventure all gather in subdued acquiescence, each performer letting his musical persona shine through. Bonomi unleashes a grand organ solo that would make Auger, Emerson, Stewart or Lord blush with sympathy. Drummer DeGrandis showcases his skin bashing technique eloquently, propelling the groove ever further, constantly abetted by Baldassari's under towed bass. Minella's axe style is so refreshing, not falling into the senseless noodling that some frustrated rockers copy in order to be "accepted" into the jazz pantheon, preferring a rowdier palette of effects that are way closer to the prog guitar prototype (as if that was somehow shameful! Go figure!). Elegant piano and the strings tuck this one in nicely, a definite highpoint for me and an immediate RPI classic. I think I just came?.oops arrived, I mean! "The Mirror" is not a remake of the Spooky Tooth classic (hahahaha) but an airy vocal from our drum man that skirts distant territories (a bit like Maneige perhaps), a slight Arabic desert feel that recalls some Saharan safari amid the sun-baked sand dunes (say that one real fast!) and some flavorful guitar whirlwinds (like a rougher Santana , get it?). This is breezy, cool and visionary jazz-rock, no hint of any blurry mirage, as the piano traces the itinerary with conviction. The mid-section Hammond explosion is a terminal velocity highlight that begs to be heard, overpowering and sophisticated, the quality of the musicianship astounding. DeGrandis is closer to Wyatt, Marshall and Pyle on the closing, drums aglow. The final track seems only to reassure the listener that all is well in Prog land with a triumvirate of female singers that garnish the selection with some deft Sardinian folk, another undeniable trait that consecrates this as RPI and not just jazz-fusion (a tag I disagree with in this instance). A deliriously euphoric album that will keep my DFA album rating tradition intact. Ridiculously good music . 5 Taxless Mirrors
Report this review (#255937)
Posted Sunday, December 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Italian geniuses are back ! If you like Canterbury rock, DFA (Duty Free Area) is for you. Yes, there are some differences with Hatfield for instance since the stress is put on the guitars rather than the keyboards. The tracks are more virtuous than labyrinthine. But this not a critic. Mostly instrumental, the music is so diverse and merry (this is an Italian band, you know), you never get bored and almost dance because of its groove. A great mixture of jazz and symphonic rock (you'll even find some violin and flute parts). For those who already know this combo, let's say this opus is a bit more jazz rock oriented than the preceding ones. Any way, it's still very good stuff. Well done, lads and grazie per tutti.
Report this review (#266480)
Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The rumour mill.........

D.F.A or Duty Free Area as they also call themselves, I believe...... is not the most profiled Italian band. Which is a shame because they really have something to offer. Their albums also has this knack to slowly creep up on the listener over a time. Their material is not immediate hit music. But I am now well ahead of myself. Let's take this from the beginning.......

4th is strangely enough D.F.A.s fourth album. I have been listening to their second and third album and I knew what I was in for. And I got what I wanted plus some more. D.F.A does a blend of Jazz Rock/Fusion and Rock Progressivo Italiano. I would even describe D.F.A as the bridge between those two styles. Their music is not either of those two styles. It is a fusion of them. But on this album, D.F.A has also inflused a lot of Canterbury Scene too. No, not Caravan or Soft Machine, although a couple of melody lines gives me some Soft Machine vibes too. I am actually thinking more along the lines of National Health and what Alan Gowen did throughout his far too short life. There is a lot of National Health hidden on 4th. Being a National Health fan (in more than one sense.... but it is better to leave my personal life out it), this album album really touches the right tangents. In other words; this is a true fusion album, but not a Jazz Rock/Fusion album.

Most of the album is instrumental keyboards and guitar driven music. The final track La ballata de 'isposa 'e Mannorri is a female vocal track backed by some great keyboards. The album is full to the brim with small inttricate details and subtle, but still very infectious melody lines. The album sounds bland at the first listening sessions, but really springs to life after a while. So give this album plenty of time and attention before making up your mind.

The quality is great throughout. With the exception of the final track where the female vocals makes this a standout track (but not the best on the album), this album can be regarded as one piece of music. The best track is the opening track Baltasaurus. But the rest of the album just shades it. I am pretty sure this is an album I will love more and more during the next years and decades. In short; this is a great album from a great band.

4 stars

Report this review (#392602)
Posted Wednesday, February 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Italian D.F.A. plays fusion music of the best quality, but stays a little in debt when concerning originality or even producing tunes that really catch. However, fluent and clever arrangements with a little Canterbury sauce and excellent techniques make up a lot. One can compare them to Return to Forever in the mid 70s, however D.F.A. still misses the sheer geniality of RTF compositions and playing.

Two songs with the vocal ? philosophical "The Mirror" (drummer and the band's main composer De Grandis singing) and charming "La Ballata De S'isposa E Mannorri" (with Sardinian female vocal group Andhira) are real jewels. The long "Baltasarus" (over 14 min) and "Mosoq Runa" (almost 19 min) are the very fine examples of symphonic fusion. Pretty pieces on the flute by the keyboardist Bonomi and cello contributions by Zoltan Szabo make the music quite diverse and bearable. It is amazing how this long and intricate epics are arranged and played: they don't even start to bore after quite a few listens.

It is unfortunate, that D.F.A. is not a very productive band. Since their start in 1991 they have recorded only 4 albums. The previous one ? "Duty Free Area" was issued 10 years ago. They also don't play awfully lot on stage. I won't be surprised if all their shows could be counted on the fingers of two hands. I won't go speculating what are they doing while not playing music, but it could actually make funs of fusion music more happy if they shifted their life stile balance to making more music.

Report this review (#547160)
Posted Sunday, October 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Italian progressive scene boasts many authentic groups who draw inspiration from all kinds of sources. DFA's "4th" is a classic example of top shelf current Italian prog that uses classic progressive as a template, expanding the sound with just the right amount of contemporary panache to complete the finished product.

Take the first track, Baltasaurus. This monster runs the gamut, starting with the Hatfield and the North template and constructing a powerful sound featuring epochal rhythms, dynamic instrumental interplay, and exciting tempo shifts. Powerful is the word to describe this tune. The clean, refined sound definitely accents the nuances of the production on this song and the remaining package.

The rest of the tunes run the gamut as well, using contemporary Canterbury flavor - making this almost a tribute album (put out more people!!!). My only slight qualm with this album - the album cover is a bit generic. In my eyes, it's almost a big deal. For an album to attain classic status, the album cover must portray an image that positively reflects something creative about the feelings contained within the music. I don't feel or see it here, this cover looks to me like it was put together in a half an hour and rushed onto the album. Still, the music is terrific and because of acts like DFA, Accordo dei Contrari, and Il Tempio Delle Clessidre, contemporary progressive music finds its way onto my turntable quite often. This album deserves at least 100 ratings if not 500 from Progarchives members. Like Miriodor, it seems DFA will go down in progressive rock history as a minor footnote - which is sad. It's a shame this lineup will never have the chance to build on this masterpiece of sound.

Report this review (#1170367)
Posted Saturday, May 3, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars This mature release from the celebrated Italian fusion powerhouse finds the band exploring jazz-rock territory ranging from the whimsical realms of Canterbury (with Alberto Bonomi, normally the group's keyboard player and synth- wrangler, adding a touch of flute which really ties that sound together) to more ferocious Mahavishnu-esque workouts (with Silvio Minella more than earning his keep on lead guitar).

Combining technical proficiency with meaningful compositions with genuine emotion and sentiment behind them, DFA's 4th proves them to be a highly well-rounded unit and a welcome presence in the fusion subgenre. Alas, Duty Free Area called it a day a year after this album, but if you're going to wrap up a musical project, going out on a high like this one is the way to do it.

Report this review (#2281078)
Posted Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars Released in 2008, this was the first studio album from Duty Free Area in almost a decade, and still their latest. This is currently available from Moonjune Records on their Bandcamp site at "name your price", so it is a great opportunity to investigate one of the best Italian progressive bands around. Six songs and nearly 70 minutes in length, four of the six are totally instrumental, and while a couple bring in additional strings, the album is based around the core quartet of Silvio Minella (guitars), Alberto Bonomi (Hammond A100, Fender Rhodes, grand piano, synth, flute, vocals), Luca Baldassari (bass) and Alberto De Grandis (drums, percussion, vocals). This fusion album has been hugely influenced by the likes of John McLaughlin, and definitely feels as if it belongs in the Seventies as opposed to the Noughties. Baldassari is probably the most under-stated of the musicians, often staying a long way in the background which allows his rhythm partner to be more bombastic in his approach, often flailing all over the kit. But then at the front are Minella and Bonomi, who back each other up, duet and solo with each knowing their place in the melody and knowing exactly what has to be done to provide just the right emphasis. In many ways this doesn't feel like an Italian progressive album at all, as it feels far more British and American in its outlook which in this context is a very good thing indeed.

I must confess to not being a huge fan of the last track in particular, as the vocal harmonies make it a very interesting piece indeed, especially with the violin, but it is quite at odds with the rest of the album and consequently it jars somewhat. Certainly it isn't representative of D.F.A. as a whole, yet this reflective almost Baroque approach is very well done indeed and it would be interesting to hear an album of this style of music, but for me it just doesn't fit with the rest of it. Given there were 9 years between this album and 1999's 'Duty Free Area' let's hope that this isn't the end of the band just yet. If you have yet to come across them then thanks to the generosity and foresight of Moonjune Records then now really couldn't be a better time to do so.

Report this review (#2314356)
Posted Sunday, February 9, 2020 | Review Permalink

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