70's Italian Prog Rock bands: Area

Area-International POPular Group, most commonly known as Area, is an Italian progressive rock, jazz fusion, experimental group formed in 1972 by singer Demetrio Stratos and drummer Giulio Capiozzo. Area grew to be one of the most respected and important bands of the blooming 70s Italian progressive rock scene. They have been compared to Gentle Giant for the extreme complexity combined with an elegant and debonair use of polyrhythms; but they had a stronger attitude in managing middle east musical structures and elements, from odd rhythms to the use of tone fourths.

Demetrio Stratos' years: 1972–1979

Originally composed of Demetrio Stratos (ex I Ribelli vocalist), Giulio Capiozzo (drums and percussion), Victor Busnello (saxophone and flutes), Leandro Gaetano (piano), and Johnny Lambizzi (guitar), soon followed by Patrick Djivas (bass) and Patrizio Fariselli (keyboards and piano), Area was formed in 1972. The band was led by Demetrio Stratos, a highly original and talented singer of Greek family who used his voice as an instrument, in spite of not having written anything for the group until the 1978 "Gli Dei Se Ne Vanno, Gli Arrabbiati Restano!" album. In 1973, Leandro Gaetano and Johnny Lambizzi left the band and the latter was replaced by ex I Califfi guitarist Paolo Tofani (guitar and synth). In that year, they recorded their first studio album Arbeit macht frei ("Work Brings Freedom"), taken from the inscription that was found on the gate at the entrance to Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. The album was released by Cramps Records and it's a very accomplished debut by anyone's standards featuring an exciting blend of jazz, rock and prog with Arabian and Greek influences along with a touch of the avant. The band performed in many musical and cultural events: they went on tour in Chile and, representing Italy, they took part in the eighth Biennale de Paris. At that time, Area's sound was an odd mish-mash that drew from rock, jazz, Eastern, and Arabic music, and it was the blending of all sorts of music that made the band stand out. The band soon grew to prominence because it was founded on a strong and virtuosic musicianship. To aficionados of Italian progressive rock, their debut album Arbeit macht frei is considered a classic.

Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (nero)

In 1974, Victor Busnello and Patrick Djivas left the band. Djivas, who would later play with Premiata Forneria Marconi, was replaced by Ares Tavolazzi (bass). When saxophonist Busnello left, along with bassist Patrick Djivas, the Area sound became more guitar and keyboard oriented. At that time, the line-up of the group was composed of Demetrio Stratos on vocals, Hammond organ and steel drum; Giulio Capiozzo on percussion; Patrizio Fariselli on piano and keyboards; Ares Tavolazzi on bass and trombone; and Paolo Tofani on guitar and VCS 3 syntethizer. The sixth unofficial member of the group was Gianni Sassi, founder and designer of the Cramps Records label, who added a distinctive visual style to their music and took care of the group's image. Area held a “therapeutic” concert at the Psychiatric Hospital of Trieste, directed by Franco Basaglia; recorded their second studio album Caution Radiation Area, played at the Parco Lambro Festival in Milan and at the first International Festival of Rovereto; They represented Italy at the first Pop Festival of Berne and performed at the Velodromo Vigorelli event against the Vietnam War together with Joan Baez. Their second LP was more experimental with strong free-jazz influences.

Cometa Rossa

During 1975, the number of their live performances and exhibitions increased. They participated at the second Parco Lambro Festival and at the "Festa Nazionale dell'Unità" in Florence; in November of that year, Area recorded their third studio album Crac!, and their recordings were published for the first time in France. This album returned to a more prog style, with some of their best rock tracks, "Gioia e Rivoluzione" and "L'elefante bianco", yet retaining the long instrumental parts that were the group's trademark. The live LP Are(A)zione was released in the same year.

Gioia e Rivoluzione

La mela di Odessa

L'elefante bianco

In 1976, their recordings were distributed in Japan. They were featured at the third Parco Lambro Festival. In this year, Area played around 200 concerts in Italy. They were invited to take part in the Fête de L'Humanité, held in the working class suburbs of Paris at Le Bourget, near Aubervilliers, and at the Festa do Avante in Lisbon. Giulio Capiozzo and Ares Tavolazzi left the group for a couple of months to meet the Andrea Mingardi Orchestra. Fariselli, Tofani, and Stratos gave a concert at the University of Milan with Steve Lacy and Paul Lytton, and from that concert their live album was released, Event 76. 1976 saw a radical turn in the group's style; it was turning toward jazz and they recorded their fourth studio album Maledetti with the Arze brothers, Steve Lacy, Paul Lytton, Walter Calloni, and Hugh Bullen as guest musicians.


During a concert at the Teatro Uomo in Milan in 1977, the band presented their compilation album Anto/Logicamente. In the same year, Paolo Tofani left the group. In 1978, Area left the Cramps record label for Ascolto; in that year, their fifth studio album was released, Gli Dei Se Ne Vanno, Gli Arrabbiati Restano! In March, they played three concerts in Lisboa, Coimbra, and Oporto in Portugal; in July, the band had two dates in Havana, Cuba at the World Festival of Youth and Students.

Hommage à Violette Nozières

1979 was the year of study, experimentation, and research. Members of the group guested on PFM violinist/flautist Mauro Pagani's first solo album, with contributions by Demetrio Stratos, Giulio Capiozzo, Patrizio Fariselli, and Ares Tavolazzi ("L'Albero Di Canto" and "L'Albero Di Canto II" with Area members backing Pagani exclusively). Later Demetrio Stratos left Area, and Fariselli, Capiozzo, and Tavolazzi recruited several musicians: Massimo Urbani, Pietro Tonolo, Sara Borsarini, and Guido Guidoboni. In April 1979, Demetrio Stratos was diagnosed with a severe case of aplastic anemia. His condition deteriorated rapidly and he was transferred to New York City Memorial Hospital for treatment. Meanwhile, in Italy his friends organized a concert to pay for his medical expenses. Many musicians accepted the invitation to perform, and the concert was planned for June 14, 1979. It was to become Demetrio Stratos’ memorial concert, where over a hundred musicians played in front of an audience of 100.000. He died in New York City Memorial Hospital on June 13, 1979 at the age of thirty–four, while waiting for a bone marrow transplant, of heart attack.

Post Demetrio Stratos years and Area II: 1980–1986

Tic & Tac, their sixth studio album, was released in 1980. It was an instrumental album. Then, Area released Gli Uccelli ("The Birds"), a Greek classic comedy by Aristophanes, in collaboration with the theatrical company Nuova Scena and directed by Memè Perlini. Gli Uccelli was performed in Italy around 100 times and finished in Brussels on May 1981. Larry Nocella was recruited and the band did several concerts with him. In 1982, together with Nuova Scena company, they prepared and performed Tristano e Isotta ("Tristan and Iseult"), a theatrical representation with dance and music of that influential romance/tragedy under the choreography and direction of Amedeo Amodio. In 1983, Area disbanded and the musicians continued their musical activities separately. Drummer Capiozzo continued in the mid 1980s with a band called Area II, but he was the only original member with session musicians, leaning more towards the pure jazz elements.

La torre dell'alchimista

First reunion: 1993–2000

In 1993, Patrizio Fariselli, Giulio Capiozzo, and briefly, Ares Tavolazzi, resumed the live activity of Area, experimenting with new sounds, materials, and new languages. Ares Tavolazzi left the band and was replaced by Paolo Dalla Porta and Pietro Condorelli. Chernobyl 7991, their seventh and last studio album, was released in 1997. Gigi Cifarelli, John Clark and Pietro Condorelli featured as guest musicians. The group commonly known as Area II had several live concerts performed as a trio consisting of Fariselli, Capiozzo, and Paolo Dalla Porta. In 1998, Marco Micheli replaced Dalla Porta, and the band also recruited Angela Baggi. This line-up toured until its split in 1999. Capiozzo died a year later. 

Deriva (Sogni sognanti vendesi)

Second reunion: 2009–present

On 25 August 2009 in Siena, Patrizio Fariselli, Ares Tavolazzi, and Paolo Tofani with Capiozzo's son, Christian on drums, and Mauro Pagani on vocals and violin performed together for the first time in over a decade during the ninth edition of the festival "La Città Aromatica", dedicated to Demetrio Stratos thirty years after his death. On 29 and 30 January 2010, there was another reunion when Fariselli, Tavolazzi, and Tofani with UT Gandhi (Umberto Trombetta) on drums, played together at the San Lazzaro di Savena (Bologna) theatre as part of "StratosFerico: Omaggio a Demetrio Stratos", a tribute to Demetrio Stratos. On 2 May, Fariselli, Tofani, and Tavolazzi reunited again for a performance at New York's Brecht Forum, accompanied by Italian session drummer Walter Paoli and former collaborator Mauro Pagani on violin and vocals. The official Reunion Tour started on 21st Sept 2010 in Milano at Blue Note Club, with Fariselli, Tavolazzi, Tofani, Walter Paoli on drums and Mauro Pagani as special guest. During the Reunion Tour, ending on Novembre 2011, Area had several special guests, among them Maria Pia De Vito on vocals.

(Studio albums)

1973-Arbeit macht frei:
1. Luglio, agosto, settembre (nero)
2. Arbeit macht frei
3. Consapevolezza
4. Le labbra del tempo
5. 240 chilometri da Smirne
6. L’abbattimento dello Zeppelin

1974-Caution Radiation Area:
1. Cometa Rossa
2. ZYG (Crescita Zero)
3. Brujo
4. Mirage
5. Lobotomia

1. L’elefante bianco
2. La mela di Odessa (1920)
3. Megalopoli
4. Nervi scoperti
5. Gioia e rivoluzione
6. Implosion
7. Area 5

1976-Maledetti (Maudits):
1. Evaporazione
2. Diforisma urbano
3. Gerontocrazia
4. Scum
5. Il massacro di Brandeburgo numero tre in sol maggiore
6. Giro, giro, tondo
7. Caos (parte II)

1978-Gli Dei Se Ne Vanno, Gli Arrabbiati Restano!:
1. Il bandito del deserto
2. Interno con figure e luci
3. Return from Workuta
4. Guardati dal mese vicino all’aprile!
5. Hommage à Violette Nozières
6. Ici on dance!
7. Acrostico in memoria di Laio
8. “FFF“ (Festa, Farina e Forca)
9. Vodka cola

1980-Tic & Tac:
1. La torre dell'alchimista
2. Danza ad anello
3. A.S.A
4. Lectric rag
5. La luna nel pozzo
6. Tic & tac
7. Quartet
8. Sibarotega
9. Chantee d'amour
10. Antes de hablar abra la boca

1997-Chernobyl 7991:
1. 15.000 umbrellas (part 1)
2. 15.000 umbrellas (part 2)
3. Liquiescenza
4. Wedding day
5. Chernobyl 7991
6. Fall down
7. Il faut marteler
8. Efstratios
9. Mbira & Orizzonti
10. Colchide
11. Deriva (sogni sognati vendesi)
12. Sedimentazioni

Area & Demetrio Stratos