AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Area’s Arbeit Macht Frei (Almost) 50 Years Later

I got home fairly late last night but still felt like listening to some tunes, so I picked something that I haven’t heard in ages.  At its short 36-minute length, the Italian jazz-rock band Area’s first album, Arbeit Macht Frei was perfect before slumber (or so I thought…because I was a little pumped afterward, so much for sleep).

I can try and be cute by picking out how utterly outstanding the individual musicians are on this album.  How the rough and tumble analog-ness of Patrizio Fariselli’s electric piano and Gianpaolo Tofani’s raw VCS synth are in machine-perfect synch against Tofani’s jagged, gravel-rubbed guitar and Victor Busnello’s sax.  That is till Busnello decides to leave the safety of the nest and flies off the rails like exploding shrapnel.

I can also point out how the back line of Jan Patrick Djivas’s bass and Giulio Capiozzo’s drums are so incredibly locked in…until they decide to execute the great divergence and spin off into a free-form stratosphere taking the rest of the band with them. 

Sure, I can say all that…and shit, I just did!

But how can I leave out the best part about Arbeit Macht Frei?  No worries, I won’t…the voice of Demetrio Stratos.  In equal parts operatic, soulful, exploratory in his histrionics to the point of speaking in tongues…Stratos has it all.  Layered on top of these other fine gentlemen, Stratos can be considered “the” sound of Area.  At times acting as the key, the lynchpin, the glue that holds it all together when they need to be together, but he was also the force, the one particular trigger that allowed Area to walk their own crooked mile.

Area not only established a template that hundreds, maybe thousands of jazz-rock bands would iterate on, but they were also a mold-breaker because no matter how many groups worldwide played in this style…none of them ever sounded like Area.  Their first album, Arbeit Macht Frei is a great starting point in case you are amongst the uninitiated.

Mike Eisenberg
Twitter: @bigaudio999