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Area Crac ! album cover
4.24 | 415 ratings | 34 reviews | 45% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. L'elefante Bianco (4:33)
2. La Mela Di Odessa (6:27)
3. Megalopoli (7:53)
4. Nervi Scoperti (6:35)
5. Gioia E Rivoluzione (4:40)
6. Implosion (5:00)
7. Area 5 (2:09)

Total Time 37:17

Line-up / Musicians

- Demetrio Stratos / vocals, organ, harpsichord, percussion, steel drums
- Giampaolo Tofani / electric guitar, EMS synth, flute
- Patrizio Fariselli / electric & acoustic pianos, ARP synth, bass clarinet, percussion
- Ares Tavolazzi / electric & acoustic basses, trombone
- Giulio Capiozzo / drums & percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Gian Michele Monti with Gianni Sassi (art direction) and Edoardo Sivelli (design)

LP Cramps Records ‎- CRSLP 5103 (1975, Italy)

CD Cramps Records ‎- CRSCD 003 (1990, Italy) Remastered

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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AREA Crac ! ratings distribution

(415 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(45%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

AREA Crac ! reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Prognut
5 stars Well!!!.... Somehow, I will try to review this album; which by the way IMHO is the most spectacular GEM found in the fusion-rock-experimental genre!!..

I would try to direct my review, not to the savvy proghead but instead, to the newcomer prog fan that wants to check out AREA for the first time... First, let me tell you a couple of things in general. I do not have any problems in recommending any of Area albums where Demetrio Stratos was involved. Second, when you talk about Fusion in general, you should understand that is basically an acquired taste. And, once you dig into it and surpass this phase this music becomes very rich and uplifting for the spirit!!! You will need several spins and bands to get a grip of Fusion; for me, that was the case.... when I hear AREA for the first time. Just blow me away, did not get it and I even put away the album for a while, until I got more taste for fusion and listen to more accessible bands...I may recommend Deus Ex-Machina (Cinque) first!!! So, do not give up with your first spin...or, with the first album, because by the way all of them sound different in a way...but, this is the album to own if you are new to AREA. Band Instrumentation is provided by guitar, bass, drums and keys with also the use of bass clarinet, trombone and flute. Two words define AREA: Complex and Wild!!!!...Demetrio Stratos has one of the most interesting, to say the least, voices in progressive rock...He die many years ago, but we are fortunate enough to still enjoy his stunning vocals! I quote this from other sources (Gibraltar Encyclopedia...) Demetrio overlap voice is very intercate..He howls, whines, growls, laughs, moans, and yodels and sometimes-even sing!!!! I agree 100%.

I have to say also, that IMO AREA placed Demetrio's voice as other Instrument rather than just the vocal itself.... Magnificent!!! You cannot compare these guys with anybody else, because, really nobody was making music like them...Superb!!! In conclusion... five guys making a high-energetic and very complex, wild Jazz-Fusion-Rock-Experimental type of music. Recommended also for all those symphonic prognuts that will like to have a little bit of spice in their music!!!

This album is a Classic in its Genre, and should be part of every serious progressive music collection! And, coming from somebody like me (not a hard core fan of fusion) will not be consider an overstatement...5 Stars! Highly Recommended.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Do not be afraid of the title under their name where they describe themselves as "International POPular group", they meant this in a leftist view. Area could not be further away from pop music. This second effort is in the line of the debut masterpiece and is just as influential! We are still talking in a strange mix of jazz-rock-fusion laced with Canterbury influences and slightly RIO although this will be much more evident in the following Caution Radiation Area album. Traces of Gentle Giant influences are also evident.

Elephante Bianco reminds me of a cross between Mahavishnu and Soft Machine, while the second and third tracks are more in the line of funky jazz-rock much because of the bass lines. IMHO the most interesting track is Nervi Scoperti that plays with the boundaries of dissonant music between harmony and dissonance like a tightrope walker (much the way John Coltrane did with Meditations and First Meditations albums).

A short but very joyfull and very vocal track before Implosion (my fave on this album) and an excursion into RIO-free jazz round-up an other well-worth-seeking-for album!

Review by Carl floyd fan
4 stars It seems to be a theme in the music I have listened to tonight: bad vocals set to amazing music. First Catapilla, now Area. I love fusion, don't get me wrong, but sometimes the vocals are bad, or just plain goofy sounding. Its not that its in a different language, "Itoiz" and "A barca do sol" among many others blow me away in there beauty. But than you hear vocals like on this cd that bring down the rest of the music and it stinks, because it could so easily be a gem had it been instrumental or had a different vocalist.
Review by NJprogfan
5 stars I'll be honest, I'm a lover of Italian Symphonic prog, it being my top favorite genre with Canterbury right behind it. When I saw such high regards for this album on the website 'Gnosis', the experimental side of my musically nature was scratched. So I plunked down some hard-earned cash and bought it home. Man-oh-man, was I blown away. Now mind you, fusion or jazz/experimantal music is NOT my cup of tea. But this album was SO highly rated it had to have something else going for it. And believe me, it does and his name is Demetrio Stratos. The man has a voice like no other. The only comparision I can possible make with another human being is the dude from Deus Ex Machina. There's times during the album where you'd think it was some kind of synthesizer making the noise, but no, it's Demetrio. Hot damn it's weird but wonderful at the same time. Musically, they're the tightest bunch of Italians I've heard so far. Just flat out AWESOME musicians. Up and down, guitar to bass to drum to keyboards, they're as professional as any English/American, etc. band you can possible compare them to. Be it jazzy, fusion, or even Canterbury, they do it with flair Italian-style. If not for the last song, "Area 5" which is the freakin weirdest Itailan song I've heard yet, it would be an unequivicial five-star disc, but in all honesty I'll round it 4.75. If you have exhausted all the Italian symphonic bands and want to branch out further in the country musically, start with Area and this album. Like a doctor, you'll thank me in the morning.
Review by Tapfret
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Fun stuff.

This is a very good band from Italy. This album most frequently sounds like an Italian Magma playing Mahavishnu style songs painted with Zappa humor textures. The vocalist has very Vander-like inflections, strong operetic vibratos sung in Italian. Keyboards are very strong with overdriven Rhodes and B3 with occasional grand piano and Moog breaks. The guitar is a lightly distorted mix of electric tones. Occasional violin smacks of Goodman and Ponty. This band is not afraid to put up the funk other. The percussionist is very versed in differing styles.

Very raw and entertaining progressive jazz/rock fusion. Highly recommended. 4.1 Stars.

Review by Flucktrot
3 stars If you're like me, with Arbeit Macht Frei being your introduction to Area, then you will likely be a bit underwhelmed by this effort. If you haven't heard that album, then Crac! is likely to blow your mind. This is great fusion, instrumentation, and experimentation, but it for the most part lacks an edge that made their debut so compelling.

Le'elefante Bianco, La Mela di Odessa. I enjoy these first two songs less than the rest of the album (except the last track, Area 5, which is just some noises and doesn't warrant further description). Things start off intensely, with Stratos belting out some powerful lyrics coupled with some heavy piano banging, followed by an intricate jazz groove, and concluded by a rousing chorus. Certainly a solid start, but nothing remarkable, and the loud intro can be a bit grating. La Mela is a two-part song, with some nice fusion to begin, and an an extremely repetitive (and un-Area-like) riff to close out the track.

Megalopoli, Novi Scoperti. Here's where Area really find their groove, with lots of furious drumming, yawning bass, change-ups in melody, and of course wildly entertaining Stratos stylings. It seems as if Area was consciously trying to include more structure to this album, but decided to not apply that formula to these tracks. I wish they would have let loose more in this vein on the rest of the album.

Gioia e Rivoluzione, Implosion. These tracks add a great variety to the album, with the former basically an extremely catchy pop tune, and the former an excellent experiment in tone and texture, with a great build throughout.

Overall, this is a solid album, but it falls well short of masterpiece status. It's perhaps a bit too structured and formulaic in places, but there's also Area's classic blend of serious musicianship coupled with plenty of fun and entertainment. I also have to note that I don't pay much attention to the lyrics or bother to look them up, so I can't speak to their potentially anti-establishment content if that influences whether you're interested in the album. What I can say is that musically, you are likely to enjoy Crac!

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is such an amazing band and "Crac !" is clearly one of their best albums. I still prefer their debut but both are essential. I do think this record is more accessible and easier to digest than the debut. I just love to listen to these guys play, and then you have the added dimension of Demetrio on vocals singing and experimenting with his voice.

"L'Elefante Bianco" hits the ground running with vocals and piano. The vocals stop as an uptempo melody takes over before a minute. Vocals are back 2 1/2 minutes in with vocal melodies to follow. "La Mela Di Odessa (1920)" has this crazy intro before drums come in and take over. The bass and keys sound great as drums continue. Vocal melodies come and go. Guitar 3 minutes in and then it calms down before a funky melody arrives with horns. Spoken vocals come in around 4 minutes. The vocals start to get a little insane and there's laughing as well.

"Megalopoli" has some atmosphere to begin with as it's almost spacey. The drumming 1 1/2 minutes in signals a change. The vocals after 2 minutes remind me of Vander for some reason (psychotic). Love the soundscape that follows as the bass, drums and organ rip it up. It settles somewhat as synths come in. Check out the bass after 5 minutes. Filthy organ as drums and bass are relentless. Vocals are back after 7 minutes. "Nervi Scoporti" opens with bass as drums join in and then synths? Chunky bass and piano take over. Piano is all over this one and it's absolutely incredible. The guitar makes some noise 3 1/2 minutes in. "Gioia E Rivoluzione" opens with vocals and piano. Strummed guitar comes in on this catchy and melodic track. Vocals are back but are normal. Some clapping 3 1/2 minutes in as we're all having fun. "Implosion" opens with experimental sounds. A melody arrives a minute in with some great drumming eventually coming in. The tempo picks up 4 minutes in. Great sound. "Area 5" is a 2 minute experimental track with vocal sounds and other sounds coming and going throughout.

Highly enjoyable Italian Avant-Jazz. A must have.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Crac!" is the third studio effort by that glorious avant-garde ensemble from Italy named Area.This work not only follows in the robust, challenging vein of its masterful predecessor "Caution Radiation Area", but it also replicates its intensity and modernistic inventiveness. On the other hand, it is fair to note down that the level of extravagant madness is not as pronounced as on the aforesaid album (or the next one "Maledetti", another Área masterpiece that we are not reviewing at this moment). One detail we can notice is that the ever bizarre Demetrio Stratos actually "bothers" to sing, that is, use his voice to elaborate defined melodic lines through a song's development. The first case is the opener 'L'Elefante Bianco', in which the lead vocal and piano enter at unison and display an exciting, playful motif full of Southern Mediterranean and Turkish nuances (some relatedness with the previous album's opener 'Cometa Rossa' can be traced as well). The second case is 'Gioia e Rivoluzione', which portrays a gentle, acoustic sonic architecture very much akin to the standardized hippy protest song: the subject of freedom regained after the demise of a dictatorship is worked on with a calculated folkish naivety. Curiously, the Tarzan-like vocal interventions are used subtly as to add colour (as apposed to disturbance) to the repeated final chorus. But hey, this is an Area album, and as such, it is mandatory that it contains a large amount of jazz-rock and psychedelically driven elements of experimentation in a prog context. 'La Mela di Odessa (1920)' and 'Megalopoli' are two intricate sonic journeys equally nurtured by energy and insolence, influenced by Mahavishnu Orchestra and aiming for a delirious refurbishment of the usual concepts of jazz-fusion. Actually, I have the impression that the rhythmic duo bears a more powerful feel than on the previous album (the bassist that debuted in the "Caution" album feels evidently at home here). Guitarists Tofani is more deeply involved than ever before in the exploration of synthesized enhancements for his lead guitar - the guitar phrases that he throws in on 'Megalopoli' are weird beyond words. Tofani uses his ARP synthesizer sensibly in order to preserve a creative tension in the sounds delivered over the complex rhythmic structures. Stratos' Hammond chops settle in freely, augmenting the band's global power. Being less aggressive than the two aforesaid pieces, 'Nervi Scorpeti' finds Fariselli initially assuming the leading role with an amazing electric piano solo, in this way preparing the stage for the moment in which Tofani will make his McLaguhlin-meets-Fripp flourishes, using effectively his guitar as a provider of tension combined with eeriness. Less aggressive, indeed, but equally brilliant. Let me reiterate how effective the rhythm duo is - a special mention has to go to Capiozzo, whose rolls and other sundry drumming tricks are almost humanly impossible, especially in those passages of tracks 2 and 3 where things get flashy and flaming. Some of these racks feel actually short: sometimes I surprise myself mentally cursing the moment in which the fade-out arrives to interrupt what could have been a magical expansion. 'Area 5' is the album's brief epilogue, an exercise on musique concrete based on craftily calculated alternations of vocal, guitar, piano, bass and drum - a Dadaistic thing, Area-style purely. General balance: "Crac!" is a typically Area-esque effort, not as radically evolving as the preceding album or the follow-up, but essential for the prog collector and convenient for the Area neophyte (either this one or the debut album "Arbeit Macht Frei").
Review by LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A creative high for music. And honestly, that's where I'd like to stop. But.

Imagine the power of an explosion, the brewing frustration and uncertainty of a generation, the freedom and joy of happiness, facing difficulties, overcoming the same difficulties - all presented and packaged in an uncensored form of expression that grabs you, stuns you, turns you inside out and leaves you alone on the ground, bleeding.and still asking for more! Behind these words there is an elusive truth in hiding, because even if much of Crac! is harsh, uncompromising, virtuosic and provocative music to the bone, it's not those qualities that makes me so very fond and attached to the album, but rather the pulsating emotional whirlwind and escapism you're invited to for the all too short thirty-eight minutes the ride lasts.

And still there really aren't any proper attempts at reaching that goal, with aggression, confrontation and downright collision feeling like a lot more descriptive words of the music, making it notably harder to reflect on the emotional ingredients of the music, and even harder finding the peace of mind required for that when listening to Area. Instead, you have to accept that you can do nothing else than open up your mind, and just let the music surge and stream through you. Believe me, you'll find it cleansing, rejuvenating, absorbing and ultimately relaxing. Think of Crac! as a musical adrenalin rush, and you might start to get the idea.

Compared to Arbeit Macht Frei it's an album that feels more distinctly like Area, and with Area being Area, that tells us that it's an album that is even more nothing at all, or rather a lot of things at the same time. Revolving around a core of fiery and restless jazz-tinged fusion with avant overtones, it snatches ideas and trademarks from many directions, broadening the scope of the music, both digging itself deeper down into indefinable experimentations with instrumentation, effects and vocals as well as opening up for smoother, more mainstream structures. Gioia E Rivoluzione is surprisingly cheerful, down-to-earth and enjoyable with its rollicking guitar and playful piano and keys sound. Placing a fairly simple mid-tempo rocker in the midst of the dominating chaos makes it stand out, but not in a bad way. Instead it enhances the pros of its own inherent qualities, and forms an island of refuge where you can lean back and drop the guard for a short while.

Otherwise the bulk of the music shows quite a lot of similarities with Canterbury Scene's better moments; restlessly wandering keys, psyched-out moments and the same approach towards jazz-rock, with a floating ill-defined structure that is dynamic in a smooth, transitional way while remaining exciting due to stunning individual performances and a natural curvature and change in the underlying rhythm. Yes, that, but on speed. It's tighter, faster, grittier and a whole lot more room for passion and extrovert punching power. Volatile, but infectiously so. On the other hand, it may be more leaning towards the lawless territories that make up avant prog. Sparse atonal instrumentation, impulsive and catatonic in a weird but functional combination or just spastically mischievous, not only marked by typical manifestations of avant tendencies, but also skilfully masked, or rather integrated, into more 'familiar' structures and motifs; squealing, creaking or whispering string harassment, totally fearless and pleasantly nonsensical piano runs (given a lot of space on some of the tracks - lovely!) or built-in fragments of other melodies, so terribly out of place you just have to melt. The spirited, warm and stompy jazz-rock rhythms that should be familiar if you've ever heard Arbeit Mach Frei are still around of course, and the fact that they feel concise says a lot about the rest of the album, and I guess they are one of the few features that honestly anchors Area to their Jazz-Rock/Fusion home. A personal favourite in the candy store of sounds found here are the 'conversations' between bass guitar, drums and keys that are strewn out on Crac!. Incredibly fast, complex phrases taking turns and joining each other in a somewhat chaotic, but very enjoyable manner.

Another similarity with the excellent debut is that the first song is also the best one. L'Elefante Bianco's dramatic, condensed and highly captivating piano motif accompanied by Demetrio Stratos impeccable vocal qualities (the man is a phenomenon - emotion, tone, using his voice as just another instrument, experimentation - flawless performance regardless of what the challenge may be) sucks you in and surprises you with its honest, dominating and charged appeal. A veritable ear-opener, and the busy Middle-East melody that follows is equally good. It moves with blinding speed, delicacy and ferocity and the images of a surreal chaotic bazaar it evokes somehow describe the album perfectly: teeming with life, full of an at first overwhelming amount of flavours that appeal to, excite and question your previous experiences.and above all the pleasant feeling that you could lose yourself forever in its exotic magic.

An absolute masterpiece and a personal favourite on all levels. Concluding word: unstoppable.

5 stars.


Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Quirky and satisfying, Area seems like a band that doesn't take itself too seriously, and yet clearly has the skills. The worst thing I can say about this album is that I don't care for the sounds of some of the instruments (including the vocals- especially the vocals) nor for the hysterical arrangements, but every so often I find myself craving this recording and all its eccentricities.

"L'elefante bianco" Boisterous male vocals and a jaunty piano begin the album. The music is generally wild, with unbridled vocals, a frantic rhythm, and an rampant synthesizer lead.

"La mela di Odessa" Melding speedy jazz fusion with symphonic tendencies, this runs at an even faster pace than the previous track, with brusque vocalizations and plenty of synthesizer leading the way. At times it sounds like Camel, and at others, like Weather Report. The second half is straight-up Italian funk, but the vocals are just not my thing- they sound like someone is trying to imitate Tarzan.

"Megalopoli" Laid-back synthesizer work gives way to a gradual snare build that explodes into an arrangement and instrumentation that is quite similar to Gentle Giant.

"Nervi scoperti" The drumming is the star here, moving between subtle rhythms to more satisfying fills, allowing for all manner of soloing, from sputtering bass to squealing synthesizer, from chaotic piano to bizarre vocalizations.

"Gioia e rivoluzione" Brisk piano introduces a baritone bit of caterwauling. However, this is more of a singer-songwriter work, sometimes even sounding a bit like American country music.

"Implosion" This piece consists of smoother music that is a stark contrast of everything else available here, although the jazzy feel remains. This has Andrew Latimer-like guitar phrases on top of growling bass and light drumming. The organ solo is a second highlight.

"Area 5" The final track is an outlandish bit of improvisation.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Area's third is another impressive collection of wild jazz and avant rock material. There won't be many surprises for people that have been with the band since the debut but Area sure confirms their continued inspiration and drive on what is probably their second best album after the debut.

Right from the opening track, both the theatrical vocals and the familiar Arabian melodies are present in all their glory. Synths have become more prominent in the sound but they are handled with care and integrate very well into Area's sound. Not everything's as easy on the ears as this track though. La Mela Di Odessa offers challenging jazz rock that doesn't offer anything catchy till halfway in. But the tension is high throughout and the music demonstrates Area's exceptional ability to turn something that is likely not to accessible at all into an irresistible melting pot of groove and pleasurable craziness.

The album is upbeat throughout and avoids the weirder explorations of the preceding Caution Radiation Area. With Gioia E Rivoluzione they even have a charming pop tune with acoustic guitars and easy melodies to hum along with. It all makes for a varied album that is slightly more accessible then their other albums without sacrificing any of their identity. A highly recommended album from an exceptional band.

Review by andrea
5 stars After the explosive debut album "Arbeit macht frei" and the experimental and controversial second one "Caution Radiation Area", in 1974 Area released "Crac!", probably their best known and accessible work. It was recorded by the classic line up featuring Giulio Capiozzo (drums, percussion), Patrizio Fariselli (electric and acoustic piano, synthesizers, clarinet), Ares Tavolazzi (bass, trombone), Paolo Tofani (electric guitar, synthesizer, flute) and Demetrio Stratos (vocals, organ, harpsichord, percussion). Gianni Sassi, Area's producer and "ideologist", wrote the lyrics and took care of the art cover. In the liner notes there are some words by Spanish "guerrillero" and anarchist Bueneaventura Durruti that should help the comprehension of this work... "We don't fear the ruins. We'll inherit the Earth. The bourgeoisie will have to smash its world into pieces before go out from the scene of history. We bring a new world into us and this world is growing, every moment passing by. It's growing, right now that I'm talking to you...".

The opener "L'elefante bianco" (The white elephant) is full of rebellious energy and blends rock with Oriental influences. It invites you to search for the obsolete rules that do not work anymore and to break them in a radical way... "Run fast boy, keep on running / People say it's your fault / White shadows, old powers are shamelessly buying the world / Old images, stupid saints are leaving everything as it is / Look foreword boy, don't think about it / History is running along with you / Run fast boy, keep on running / People say it's your fault / Take everything, don't stop / Fire is burning your virtue / Lift up your fist boy, do not tremble / Look at reality straight in the face...".

Next comes "La mela di Odessa" (The Apple from Odessa), a complex track that begins with experimental sounds and a drum solo... It tells in an allegoric way the story of a dadaist artist, a certain Apple, that in 1920 hijacked a German ship and led it to the seaport of Odessa, in the communist world. The people celebrated Aplle's heroic action blowing up the ship... Demetrio Stratos' exuberant and theatrical recitative vocals soar from a fiery rhythm pattern narrating this terrorist act like a fairy tale..."Once upon a time, there was an apple riding a leaf..."...

"Megalopoli" (Megalopolis) is an instrumental track that begins with synthesizers and vocals used as an instrument, then, after a drum roll, rhythm takes off blending modernity and tribal rhythms. According to some interviews with the band this piece was inspired by the construction of Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil, and by the blind megalomania of some governments that waste money building modern and useless cathedrals in the desert instead to think to the primary needs of their people...

"Nervi scoperti" (On edge) is a vibrant and tense jazz rock piece that leads to "Gioia e rivoluzione" (Joy and revolution), that after a peculiar introduction, features strummed acoustic guitars and powerful melodic lines... "I sing for you who come to listen to me / I play for you who don't want to understand me / I laugh for you, who can't dream... We fight our battle / With the sound of our fingers... My machine-gun is a counter-bass / Shooting into your face what I think about life...". It's one of the best known Area's songs.

"Implosion" is an instrumental track that begins calmly and then develops with sudden changes of mood and rhythm allowing the musicians to showcase their great musicianship while the last track "Area 5" is a short piece of "contemporary classical music" composed for the band by Juan Hidalgo and Walter Marchetti, two followers of John Cage. A bizarre way to conclude a great album!

Well, you can like or dislike Area's committed approach to music and share or not their revolutionary point of views about art and life but this is for sure one of the most influential album of the Italian prog scene of the early seventies and a must for every prog lover...

Review by Dobermensch
4 stars Demetrio Stratos, with his acrobatic yodelling vocals always lifted Area to a higher level than the other members of the band could have achieved without him.

'Crac' is one of their more accessible albums - which still means it's not very accessible at all. In fact, you could seriously fall out with your neighbours if you play this with any volume.

When Area got going, the whole band seemed to lock into a high speed, big fat funky groove in which they all remained as tight as hell despite the chaos flying all around them at all angles. Probably the most original and talented of all the Italian prog bands I've heard.

Tarzan tonsils, as I call him, could reportedly reach 7000hz with his voice. I bet you there weren't any beer bottles lying around when he did so! Such a shame he died so young, aged just 34 in 1979.

An excellent album which has elements of fusion jazz, prog, experimental vocals and very odd snappy tunes.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of "difficult" prog's must-hear titles

Area are one of the seminal Italian progressive rock bands of the 1970s incorporating jazz-fusion, avant-garde, and occasionally even touches of funkiness or folk into their music. They also employ the experimental Italian vocals of Demetrio Stratos and a hearty dose of the wilder side of Italian rock. They were outspoken political leftists who were a stalwart of the classic RPI scene, as important to Italian prog as PFM or Banco but without the beautiful symphonic grandeur of many of their countrymen. Instead Area pushed the boundaries in different directions, with aggression and a rebellious experimental nature, but also with a sense of humor and joy. This 3rd album continued the adventure with the classic lineup that included Stratos, Tofani, Tavolazzi, Fariselli, and Capiozzo. Crac! is an absolute roller-coaster of energy and is challenging progressive rock not for the faint of heart. Beloved by many avant and fusion fans in addition to stock RPI nuts, the album explodes from the start and never lets up. Hot, jamming drumming and monster bass anchor the show, while piano and guitar leads shred their way through. Sharing the tracks are Stratos bizarre vocals yelps, grunts, and other assorted madman noises. The playing is as technically formidable as a great jazz group, but Area take things so much farther that many fusion bands. With the various musical influences, the cultural and political narrative, and the obvious Italian vibe they are a must-hear band for RPI aficionados who want the whole picture of the 70s scene. They are not a band I play often as I find them more cerebrally intoxicating than emotionally satisfying, so my comments are brief. But there is no question Area's Crac! is excellent progressive rock.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Area was one of the more unique Italian bands of the 1970s. Their sound is a cross between Fusion and Avant-Prog. Although there is some folky, funky and electronic elements as well. Demetrio Stratos is the band's most well known member. His background is Greek and he was born in Egypt. He plays keyboards and percussion but what he is most famous for is his vocals. His vocals are like a mix of Elvis and Tarzan. Very unique and talented singer.

Crac! is the band's third album and it is slightly more accesible than the first two. But it's still crazier than a lot of prog albums at the time. "Area 5" is a short avant piece that consists mostly of dissonant piano with some weird vocals, bass, drums and guitar. It was a wise decision to put it at the end of the album. "Gioia e Rivoluzione", on the other hand, is almost radio-friendly. Only some of the vocals are weird and uncommercial. The music itself is upbeat and folky, almost with a poppy country flavour to it.

"L'elefante Bianco" starts off with piano and vocals. The synth and guitar playing has a Middle- Eastern influence. "La Mela di Odessa" has tuned percussion at the beginning. It then goes into a very fusion-y part. Some wordless vocals. After 3 1/2 minutes it gets funky with some horns and stays that way for the rest of the song. "Implosion" is another highlight. Nice organ solo. I don't like the way it fades out too soon. "Megalopoli" begins with synthesizer noises with double-tracked vocals from Demetrio. Overdubbed drum rolls appear. It goes into a part with crazy drumming and some cool bass and electric piano. Some gibberish vocals. After 3 minutes there is a nice synth solo. After 5 minutes there is a long bass solo. Around 7 minutes the gibberish vocals come back.

This does not sound like your typical RPI stuff. At the same time it's too avant to be fusion and too jazzy to be Avant-Prog. Area are a group that can't be pigeonholed. This may or may not be their best album but it is a great place to start. 4 stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Area's Crac! finds the band integrating the experimental approach of some tracks on Caution Radiation Area with their established fusion style, creating an interesting clash with Patrizio Fariselli's synths intruding on the band's fusion workouts. The result is a more compelling and successful blend than the preceding album, where the experimental tracks and the fusion tracks were carefully partitioned off from each other and the avant-garde experiments were significantly less listenable. Fast, furious, and with a hint of funk on the side, Crac! is definitely not a typical RPI album so you may want to tread carefully if you're expecting pastoral prog in the style of PFM or Banco, but fusion fans will find a lot to like here.
Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Whatever this is jazz-fusion, free-jazz, italian prog or eclectic it's certainly very good, although I do sometimes find myself wishing Demetrio Stratos did more singing. Whatever it is, it's certainly atypical and very recommended.

The music is dramatically colourful, wild, energetic, experimental and technically impressive, not at all cheesy or dated. It is an acquired taste that not everyone will be able to enjoy or understand, but if you're inclined towards adventurous prog, then you're going to love it.

Vocals are dramatic and avant-garde but, for the most part, this remains an instrumental record where even vocals loses their usual leading role and assume the likeness of an instrument, as you can hear by the many gurglings here and there (e.g. in "Area 5"). Has to be mentioned that Stratos was able to perform diplophony, triplophony, and also quadrophony and has been described as the person who decimated monody by the demultiplication of the acoustic spectrum.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars An album of astounding musicianship--virtuoso performances that rival anything else the jazz or jazz fusion worlds has ever created. The amazing thing is that this album stands up perfectly even today--it sounds as if it could have been made today.

1. "L'elefante Bianco" (4:33) Demetrio's powerful voice opens the album right in your face as he and piano declare their intentions. By the end of the first minute we've apparently heard enough from Demetrio for the song catapults into a kind of jazzy version of fast-paced folk theme. At 2:30 we return to piano and voice, but this time the band gradually joins in and builds up into a modern rock variation of that amphetamine-laced folk (or is it classical?) theme. Excellent musicianship and a great opener. (9/10)

2. "La Mela Di Odessa" (6:27) opens with a kind of SUN RA-spacey free-form jazz sound and style, that moves quickly into a drum and percussion display before harpsichord, Arp synth and electric bass join in and move the song into structure and drive. Nice TONY WILLIAMS/MAHAVISHNU feel to this one until, after 3:10, things shift to funk land. The clavinet, synths and horns are prominent along with Demetrio's commanding vocal performance--all in spoken form. So tight! Drummer Giulio Capiozzo is extraordinary (as is Demetrio). (9/10)

3. "Megalopoli" (7:53) opens with some play on the Arp synthesizer before Demetrio joins in with multiple tracks of his voice free-styling. Electric piano and bass clarinet join in the atmospheric play before a drum roll takes us out and into a new funky jazz excursion with a great melodic base. Demetrio's wordless vocal scatting over the top is, at first, like a substitute for a lead guitar or sax, but then gives way to an extraordinary jam between drums, bass, electric piano, organ, and synth. The Mahavishnu Orchestra was never this tight or well recorded! Incredible drumming! Why is this guy never included in the talk of the greatest of the greats? (10/10)

4. "Nervi Scoperti (6:35) Every time I hear this song I think I am listening to one of the all-time greatest prog fusion songs ever created and that, thus, it has to be a product of Corea/RTF, Miles, Mahavishnu, Cobham, Williams, or even a straight jazz genius. But it's not. It's AREA! Astounding, stupendous, incredible, jaw-dropping performances from everybody in the band. What a band! This one deserves extra-credit for being exactly what I said: one of the very best jazz fusion songs of all-time. (11/10)

5. "Gioia E Rivoluzione (4:40) opens like a JOHN COLTRANE, TEMPTATIONS or MAGMA song before switching radically to an acoustic guitar-based, countrified jam. The lyric of Demetrio's vocal throughout is obviously meant to be the center of attention. Otherwise, it is an okay pop song for delivery to the common folk. (7.5/10)

6. "Implosion (5:00) a little more Zawinal/Weather Report-ish than the previous jazz fusion masterpiece. More melodic and showcasing of individuals (especially the extraordinary bass player, Ares Tavolazzi). (10/10)

7. "Area 5 (2:09) an ejaculatory expression of free-form improvisational jazz. (8/10)

A masterpiece of progressive rock music--mostly cutting edge jazz fusion. Amazing!

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars After the bleak (but brilliant) CAUTION RADIATION album, AREA return to an even more accessible sound started on their debut album. Well, accessible AREA style. Still not the easiest of listening but at least they have a template of musical scales that you can get into including the signature Macedonian scales and even some progressive funk on "L'elefante Bianco."

This album is more about crafting cohesive songs and less about lurking into the free-jazz-fusion experimentation although some of the experiments from CAUTION are incorporated. This album is another winner for me. It's as tight as ever and Demetrio Stratos' vocal skills are still incredible (which we get more of this time.)

This is the album that made them popular in Italy and this is also the album that extended their music into France. This was also the first part of their existence where they benefited from a stable lineup (considered the classic period) that allowed them to tour. This is by far their easiest album to like on the first spin so if you are totally new to this band, CRAC! may be a better entry to this band's discography than even the impressive debut album.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A storm of great live performances followed the release of ''Caution radiation area'', including the gigs at the Parco Lambro Festival in Milan and the first International Festival of Rovereto.Area represented Italy at the first Pop Festival of Berne and performed at the anti-war Velodromo Vigorelli event next to Joan Baez.Entering 1975 things followed the same flow with numerous live performances and the group revisiting the second Parco Lambro Festival as well as the "Festa Nazionale dell'Unità" in Florence.In November comes the third title of Area ''Crac!'', the first disc of the band to be released also outside Italy (in France).

While the previous album contained some experimental elements, the new one sees the band back into its familiar Fusion style of frenetic rhythms, complex breaks and technical executions, propelled by a very dense instrumental sound and the unique voice of Demetrio Stratos.There are moments when their sound evokes the rich electric Fusion of RETURN TO FOREVER due the powerful electric piano, but similarities stop there.Area still find room to add some Ethnic vibes into their music with all these Eastern elements displayed in the process, but their sound was definitely a unique amalgam of jazzy and progressive principles, featuring endless tempo changes and a great number of individual soloing, not isolated by the rest of the team.Plenty of clarinet and trombone and frequent use of organ, acoustic piano and synthesizer next to the constant exhibition of electric piano guarantee an emphatic and dynamic sound.Stratos' performance is again a seminar of how to use a voice like an instrument, while he even displays some poetic harmonies along the way.One of the richer Area albums, with the later tracks (like ''Gioia e rivoluzione'') showing a tendency towards more conventional tunes and a less complicated sound, although the technical efficiency is more than evident.Only reference to more experimental forms is the short ''Area 5'' with Fariselli's piano, Tavolazzi's bass and Stratos' voice in an improvised mood.

Another solid Fusion album by Area.Again, this is not an outstanding release in my books, but everything here is played with accuracy, passion and virtuosity, completing series of dense, fast-paced tracks with instrumental versatility.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review Nº 2

In my humble opinion, Area is with Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Forneria Marconi and Le Orme, the four best bands from Rock Progressivo Italiano, in the 70's. Area was the first group, with whom I had contact, on this genre of music. "Crac!" is their third studio album and was released in 1975 and it represents my first contact with the group. With this album, the group gained more popularity all over the world and confirmed finally the great value of them.

I was very surprised when I listened to this album for the first time. Its strong musical compositions, between Jazz Rock/Fusion and Rock Progressivo Italiano, with their left-wing lyrics and the unique and spectacular voice of Demetrio Stratos, something that I never heard before and which is completely inimitable, amazed me completely. The Demetrio's voice needs to be listened to be believed. His avant-garde vocal techniques and the agility with cuts between genres and motifs are absolutely astonishing. Sincerely, I can't compare Area with any other group. They are a completely different and truly original band. I strongly recommend this band to everyone who likes Jazz Rock/Fusion with Progressive Experimental Rock and likes to listen to something wild, new and different.

"Crac!" was one of my first vinyl albums. For me, "Crac!" is their best studio album, with theatrical vocals and an experimental, exotic and robust sound. The energy contained on this album is really and truly incredible, and it's full of abundant humour. "Crac!" is an avant-garde album and represented a breath of fresh air in the progressive rock scene.

"Crac!" has seven tracks. The first track "L'Elefante Bianco" is a song with ethnic sounds and is essentially an instrumental track with variations all over the same theme. It's a track full of energy with clearly Oriental musical influences and some nuances of the southern Mediterranean music. The second track "La Mela Di Odessa" is a song that starts with an instrumental part and continues with great musical works by the entire band, with Demetrio's vocals accompanying perfectly the music and giving a more melody to the song. This is a very complex track that begins with some experimental sounds and a drum solo. It's a typical jazz rock fusion track with symphonic tendencies. The third track "Megalopoli" is the longest song on the album. It's a superb instrumental track with Demetrio's vocals performed as a musical instrument. This is a very intricate song full of energy and clearly influenced by the usual concepts of the jazz rock fusion style. The fourth track "Nervi Scoperti" is another instrumental track with nice guitar and keyboard solos. It's a vibrant and tense piece of music where the drumming is the star here. It begins with Fariselli assuming the leading role with his truly amazing piano work, preparing the ground to Tofani flourish and complemented perfectly by the Capiozzo work. The fifth track "Gioia I Rivoluzione" is a song where stands out more the powerful voice of Demetrio. It's an acoustic and peaceful song. It has a very unusual introduction that features some acoustic guitars and powerful melodic lines. This is clearly a song that shows a tendency towards a more conventional tunes and a less intricate and complicated sound, in contrast with the more experimental forms, such as "Implosion" or "Area 5". It became as one of the best Area's songs. The sixth track "Implosion" is a free instrumental and experimental track where each member of the band plays an instrument improvising in their one way. It begins very calm and soon develops with some sudden musical changes of mood and rhythm. This is a track that contrasts perfectly well with everything else which was made before. The seventh track "Area 5" is a very weird experimental track full of improvisations and with some solos and noises. It's the smallest track on the album, a truly contemporary classical piece of music. This is a very bizarre track that originally concludes this great album.

Conclusion: "Crac!" is one of the best progressive albums from the group and represents a mark in the Italian progressive music. It has also some of the best popular and known songs from the band, like "L'Elefante Bianco", "La Mela Di Odessa" and "Gioia I Rivoluzione". They quickly became some of the songs most performed live by the band, keeping the long instrumental parts that have become as one of the mainly characteristics of the group. To finish my review, I must say one more thing. The band describes themselves as an International POPular group. Sincerely, they take it very seriously. Why? Because Area, defines them as a POPular group, which means that they are a band that creates music for the people and for the masses because they don't create music for the elites. Area is a very special band and "Crac!" is a very special album. It's definitely one of the most influential albums of the 70's in the Italian progressive scene. This is a classic album in its genre, and it's for those who love to listen to something different, fresh and new. Sincerely, this album should be part of every progressive musical collection.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by jamesbaldwin
4 stars After the "Caution Radiation Area" experiment, Area change direction and produce a more accessible album, very rhythmic, full of prog music and free jazz.

"L'elefante Bianco (The White Elephant)". Hyperfast song with great virtuosic play of each instrument. Drums without brake, bass with high amplification very present, emphatic singing, electronic solos (Fariselli), very sustained rhythm with math-rock passages and typically prog rhythm changes. This is a great pop song that combines jazz-rock with prog of rare finesse and with a catchy production. Rating 8,5 / 9.

"La Mela di Odessa (The Apple of Odessa)". Another song very sustained but more jazzy, with the Tavolazzi double bass in the foreground while the solos alternate: synths, guitar, Stratos' voice used only to emit sounds. Halfway through the song, music stops, then starts again with Fariselli's synth, Tavolazzi's trombone and Stratos's spoken voice that tells a fairy tale. We are facing an almost Dadaist piece, with a pop format but with a sophisticated demented arrangement. If we exclude the recited voice, the rhythm and the baritone sound and the arrangement are similar to those that twenty years after having created "Morphine". The slow fading ending is a weak point of the piece. Rating 8+.

"Megalopoli" starts with industrial electronic sounds and onomatopoeic sounds made by Stratos' voice, which last for about a minute and a half, as if it were a cybernetic introduction, then starts true music, more electronic jazz, with Capiozzo stunts on the drums. Stratos continue to use his voice to articulate onomatopoeic sounds, without any meaning, until Tavolazzi's solo arrives on the double bass. Area after the first album, where the sound was only an amalgam of the whole group, they have already been transformed with "Caution" into a group that churns out solos of the various instruments, in a more prog style but also more cerebral and less visceral. This is my impression. Megalopoli is the most experimental song on this album, the one that comes closest to the songs of "Caution Radiation Area": it stands out above all for its always sustained rhythm. We hear three solos simultaneously: the drums of Capiozzo, the synth of Fariselli and the bass of Tavolazzi. At a certain point the song takes up the initial musical theme, almost as if it were a chorus, with the repetitions of Stratos 'vocalizations and then ends by fading again on Stratos' vocalizations. Rating 8.5.

End of an excellent A-side. Rating A-side: 8.5 / 9

"Nervi Scoperti (Uncovered Nerves)". A beautiful beginning with Tavolazzi which confirms himself to be a decisive element for the new sound of Area, much more than what was even the phenomenal Dijvas, who in Area's debut album followed his jazz-rock lines. Here Tavolazzi, as in many other passages of the album, he is left free to make remarkable virtuoso solos, accompanied first by the synth, then by the drums of Capiozzo and finally by the free- jazz liquid pianism of Fariselli that on the piano gives an unmistakable at this album. Before the end, Tofani's electric guitar arrive and Stratos' voice is used only to emit sounds. The song is very linear, remains on the same key, and it is based on the display of the solos of the instrumentalists. Very prog song, well done but without the creative genius in terms of composition. Excellent sudden ending. Rating 8.

"Gioia e Rivoluzione (Joy and Revolution)". In the beginning, it is a piano ballad with Stratos singing in the foreground. Rhythm guitar, catchy melody, it is almost a melodic pop song, one of the most accessible in the Area discography. Then comes an electric guitar solo, and we always hear a very solid bass. When it could become an excellent commercial single, instead of repeating verse and chorus, it ends up with a spree, with a long festive tail and cheeky choruses with lots of applause (clapping). Brilliant beginning and tacky ending. It will become a manifest song both for its catchiness and for the title. In fact it is one of the easiest songs to listen to in the whole production of Area and it is also one of the least elaborate, the simplest. Missed opportunity. Score 7.5.

"Implosion". Minimalist electronic beginning that could remember "Caution Radiation Area" then the usual Tavolazzi'bass marks the sound of the piece together with the synthesizers and the piano solos, and then the guitar solo. Again it is a rather linear instrumental song where the musicians enrich the music with their solos. The song does not seem to me to have a precise direction and risks being too formal, like an exercise in style. I don't see great spontaneity. The nuanced ending here is fine. Score 7,5 / 8.

"Area 5". Two-minute piece that ends a second interlocutory and almost all instrumental side. Instrumental song based on Capiozzo's tamburi, the bass played by Tavolazzi and onomatopoeic sounds made by Stratos' voice. Experimental piece but short and accessible. Rating 7.

End of a B-side much lower in terms of quality than the A-side: 7,5/8.

"Arbeit Macht Frei", written entirely by Fariselli, remains the most homogeneous album by Area in terms of music, structure, alternation of sung and instrumental songs, the most spontaneous and inspired, the most balanced, the one with a very clear personality. "Caution Radiation Area" is already not homogeneous, and much more experimental, decidedly difficult album. It almost completely renounces to the sung parts and is based on very different avant-garde compositions. "Crac" goes in the opposite direction of "Caution Radiation Area": the songs are much more linear and accessible but they are not homogeneus in terms of music and structure, even if they confirm the very high technical rate of the musicians. The music seems to me much more progressive, the three composers (Fariselli, Tavolazzi and Tofani) reserve parts for their solos, show off their virtuosity but the music of the second side does not seem very inspired and spontaneous to me (apart from Joy and Revolution, which however is not well developed) and flaw in calligraphy, formalism prog. We are clearly talking about a group, Area, which also in this case reaches the heights of creativity and courage and sophistication that the vast majority of prog groups could only dream...

but this time I am forced to rate 8.5 / 9, that is, four and a half stars to an Area's album. Yes, in my opinion, Crac is of slightly lower quality than Caution Radiation Area.

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5 stars Greece, Portugal, Vietnam, Angola, Moçambique, Green Cape... Rejoice: revolution is coming. Capitalism is at end. Another world, more just, more equal, with no exploitation is coming. Is it easy? No. We achieve withou losses? No. We need to be strong and built ourselves another possibility of social ... (read more)

Report this review (#1281835) | Posted by GKR | Monday, September 22, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars On this third album by Area we have a good mix of Fusion and RPI, and it sounds very good. There is a song in the vein of "Settembre Nero" (L'Elefante Bianco) and a less proggy, more folkish song (Gioia e Rivoluzione). Nervi Scoperti and Megalopoli (the second one expecially) are two wonderful long ... (read more)

Report this review (#521643) | Posted by Turillazzo | Monday, September 12, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars JPI? What?!? 'Crac!' is the 3rd album of Progressive evergreen band Area and in my head sound like an extreme difficult example of mix (not fusion) between Jazz Rock and RPI. In this sense is impossible to describe if 'Crac!' is a Jazz or RPI album. Certainly 'Crac!' present genuine Jazz Ro ... (read more)

Report this review (#230057) | Posted by 1967/ 1976 | Wednesday, August 5, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Crac!" is Area's third album, released in 1974 and one of the strongest in their revolutionary canon of political artfulness. The previous album had received some mixed opinions after the explosive debut; Crac! is a departure in style from both of those two records-in a way, more compact and ... (read more)

Report this review (#178290) | Posted by jimmy_row | Sunday, July 27, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of the first progressive music albums i heard and still, for me one of the best. Demetrio Stratos voice is something never heard before by any of you that want to check out this group. Like it has been said before, try to acquire any album from AREA that had the mark from Demetrio Stratos and ... (read more)

Report this review (#130060) | Posted by LeInsomniac | Tuesday, July 24, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Wow! I am not normally a fan of Italian Prog but this music really bit into me hard. And I am also a prude if the lyrics are not in my native English, I get turned off fast. However, I must thank a friend on another forum who has a weekly Prog Web Show (with corresponding chat). Goobs! You pulle ... (read more)

Report this review (#129012) | Posted by StyLaZyn | Tuesday, July 17, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Area was weird political and experimental jazzrockfusion band from Italy in 1970s with very original Greek vocalist (and keyboard player) Demetrios Stratos who sadly passed away in 1978. Yes - I just completed my music collection with two albums of Area and "Crac!" is among them. In my oppinio ... (read more)

Report this review (#79309) | Posted by Rainer Rein | Thursday, May 25, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The third work "Crac" released in 1975. One AREA hight period to which powerful performance explodes. It is a yborecedebted. This work is the highest masterpiece of AREA. It is a content outstanding also on a progressive rock history. All works overflow in energy. It is a work that was able to ... (read more)

Report this review (#63368) | Posted by braindamage | Friday, January 6, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Perhaps the best of the AREA catalog.....Stunningly original and vibrant, these guys dazzle with technique....But I cant help seeing a very Zappa-ish connection, being that they are both Italian, but this supercedes any Zappa album for its sheer electricity and constistancy.....The only proble ... (read more)

Report this review (#46967) | Posted by approximate7 | Saturday, September 17, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This third work of Area demonstrate that after a extraordinery incipit with "Arbeit Macht Frei", a second album in the name of the free jazz and soun experimentation, the creativity river of Stratos and friends is still at the maximum. The musicianship is mostruosely good in each song, even th ... (read more)

Report this review (#882) | Posted by dodaro | Saturday, April 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The energy in this album is incredible! Demetrio Stratos' voice is unreal...this man jumps back and forth between notes with 100% accuracy and sings like no other human being I've ever heard. It's really impossible to classify this band because they just seem to defy explanation. But if I HAD to ... (read more)

Report this review (#879) | Posted by | Friday, February 13, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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