Area's 1973 debut album Arbeit Macht Frei (German for "Work Makes You Free" as seen at the entrance to Auschwitz) is simply one of the finest debut albums you'll ever hear! Many other prog rock bands had to release a couple albums to get it right, like Yes or Genesis, but Area succeeded the first time, and with flying colors! I don't know the musical backgrounds to the band members, aside from Demetrio Stratos, who was in a beat band called I Ribelli in the 1960s (of little interest to prog fans, as they were basically a beat pop band that did their share of originals and covers of other people's songs), so at least I know Stratos was no stranger to music when Area formed. Arbeit Macht Frei is simply one of the most amazing fusion/prog albums you'll ever hear, and despite their controversial political views (openly communist), the music is so good you wouldn't need to be worried one bit about their politics (Robert Wyatt and Henry Cow were also communists and made great music that would appeal to anyone into that kind of music even to those who aren't political, disagree with their politics, or feel politics and music shouldn't mix - I myself, pretty much stay out of politics).
Arbeit Macht Frei was the very first release on the Cramps label and early pressings came with a gun insert. Area featured some truly unique and demented vocals from Demetrio Stratos (he also provided some Hammond organ and steel drums, but never played in a Caribbean manner), and some fantastic bass work from Jan Patrick Djivas (who would jump ship for PFM after this album, certainly not hurting his career). Also you have keyboardist Patrizio Fariselli who gives us some great use piano and electric piano (Guitarist Gianpaolo Tofani was credited to VCS-3, I swear I hear some ARP too, but none credited, but it sounded like the band had a keyboard attached to the VCS-3, as the VCS-3 synth does not come along with a keyboard, the keyboard is simply an option sold separately. Tofani tended to use the VCS-3 for regular synth solos, as well as the sound effects the synth is so well known for). These guys were no slouches and each piece is quite intense and the band doesn't let up. The album starts off with "Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)" with some spoken Arabic, apparently taken from a recording in Cairo (I'm certain Demetrio Stratos could understand the recitation, as he was born in Egypt, although he was Greek), before Stratos provides his great vocal works. Some Middle Eastern influecnes appear in the music, in between the synth work and the wind instruments (I notice sax and clarinet used on this album, I believe it was Victor Edouard Busnello). The title track starts off with a drum solo and some bass, before the music kicks in. Once again, the intensity simply doesn't let up, and Demetrio Stratos has proven to me he is simply one of the great vocalists in prog. "Consapevolezza" finds the band moving into ELP territory, the organ work is unmistakably Emerson-influenced, but once again, you get treated with Stratos' great voice. "L'Abbattimento Dello Zeppelin" shows a more experimental end of the band, with strange synth effects, the use of bass clarinet, and some intense jamming before some really twisted passges from Demetrio himself. This is truly a five star album, it really deserves it, for one thing there are no bad cuts on this album. Great vocals, great playing, and great production certainly helps big times (many of you ran across great prog albums with iffy vocals, as in the case of PFM singing in English, or iffy production, the case of the first two Banco albums or Museo Rosenbach's Zarathustra, but that's not the case of Area). There is no getting around this is a great place to start. And if you can't get enough, get Caution: Radiation Area, Crac!, and Maledetti without hesitation. Arbeit Macht Frei and those other albums mentioned get my highest recommendation!