AREA – Crac!

Area hail from Italy, and were an eclectic band even for that country. Singer Demetrio Stratos came from Greece, and his influence can be heard in the Greek, Arabian and Turkish sound of some of their music. They were a very political band, who used their album sleeves to get across their political messages, such as on their second album ‘Caution : Radiation Area’, or the fact that their debut was named after a Nazi death camp slogan. By their third album in 1974 the band had refined their sophisticated jazz-rock into something more palatable, and while still not exactly easy listening it compares well with similar period Soft Machine. The Turkish influence is most evident on opener ‘L’elefante bianco’, which has an excellent vocal from Stratos. ‘La mela di Odessa (1920)’ is first rate jazz-rock fusion, with the band all pulling together to produce a song that is both intricate and yet surprisingly catchy. ‘Megalopodi’ is more traditional jazz-rock (if there is such a thing) and brings to mind Canterbury bands such as Caravan. ‘Nervi scoperti’ is much more freeform than previous tracks, and although the piece is held together by a strong riff, the piano and sax solos will be hard to take except for lovers of avant garde jazz. At the other end of the scale ‘Gioia e rivoluzione’ is actually a relatively normal rock song, with little trace of jazz-rock, and a hummable chorus. That was just an aberration, though, as the final two tracks are back to the band’s more usual style, with ‘Implosion’ coming out on top by having a recognizable tune over ‘Area 5’ which is freeform piano and vocals. Area are one of Italy’s most important bands, and their style of music is quite different to the usual keyboard led prog which emanated from there in the 70’s. They deserve a hearing, and with the re-issue of some of their catalogue this can now be achieved. ‘Crac!’ is the perfect place to start.