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Jethro Tull - Benefit CD (album) cover

BENEFIT

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.90 | 706 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars So Stand Up was a good album, but it had two things against it: first, the sound quality was a little muddy, I'll never understand that. Secondly, the band wasn't always gelling as a unit. I don't know. With Benefit we clear up both those issues. The sound on Benefit is crisp, the nicest album until Passion Play in that sense. The band also plays as a unit pretty consistently. Unfortunately, something else is gone. Diversity.

Yep. All the songs on Benefit tend to follow a pattern: they blatantly mix gentle acoustics with sludgey guitar. It's also very dark within and throughout, the darkest album to date. However, I have nothing wrong with that pattern. In fact, there's almost nothing on the album that pisses me off, which makes for a fairly even listening.

The opening number is "With You There to Help Me," possibly the earliest song to enter my echelon of "just really, really good Tull numbers." It's an acid drenched ditty with spooky voice and flute and fuzzy guitar. And clapping. Listen closely for the laugh effects, and out of tune (purposely...I hope) piano under the main melody. I love the coda: an endless flute/guitar showdown. Yep. This is Tull's psychedelic album.

"Nothing to Say" is a really depressing number with fantastic vocal delivery. Ian really sounds like everyone is out to get him, and he doesn't give a crap. A little lighter is "Alive, Well and Living In," with the main tune being handed back and forth between Ian and Martin, and a nice acoustic bridge. Diehard Tullers often rave that "Son" is the first number to truly incorporate soft and hard parts, but they tend to forget "Back to the Family." Oh well, most diehards aren't thrilled with it anyway. I don't see why. It's the hardest thing on the album, with angry lyrics directed right at Ian's old man. Great to listen to right before listening to "Cheap Day Return," see what a year can do.

As I said, the best number is "With You There to Help Me," but the worst number is a little harder to define. However, "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me" is a pretty good candidate. I like the rockin' middle, the "I'm with you boys" part, but the acoustic buildup is just so...BORING.

The second side brings us back with "To Cry You a Song," the most famous and classy riff on the album. And it fades in! Ha! No one was doing that! It's the second of the psychedelic trio (in between "We Used to Know" and "My God"). It's really a great number for Barre, with fuzzy guitar tones layering themselves over and over again in during the instrumental breaks. "A Time For Everything" is a nice little tune, with the main melody once again being traded between flute and guitar. However, it also has a really irritating beep in the middle, which (unless my disc is faulty), kind of spoils it.

"Inside" is the most upbeat thing on the album, an amusing little pop rocker with light 'n catchy flute. "Play in Time" is the weirdest, most experimental of the lot. It's a driving rocker, with little flute parts popping up here and there. Sometimes the backwards chewed tape effect gets on my nerves, but other than that a decent song (I love the lyrics). "Sossity; You're a Woman" is some atmospheric organ and equally atmospheric acoustic guitar. It's a sufficient closer, but on the greatest.

So, as I've said, not the greatest, but good. Dark, but not the darkest. Dry, but not the driest (some have suggested a proto-Minstrel). There is not a single song that doesn't contain something I like, if sometimes you have to dig for it (or endure sound effects). The band sounds pretty good, but I'm also a little disappointed. Ian and Martin are great, and John Evan does pretty good on the 'boards, but my rhythm section (particualry Cornick) isn't nearly as strong as on Stand Up. Poor Glenn. Clever chap, jazzy basslines, but I do prefer Jeffrey.

Benefit is worth your dollars, if only for the two biggest numbers off the album. Both are pretty much classics. Yeah. Damn this is a bad ending to the review, but I can't think of anything better.

(There are four songs on the digital remaster, and you've probably heard them all! "Singing All Day" is one of the grooviest numbers Tull ever did. It's remarkably toe tappin'. "Witch's Promise," the best bonus, is a ghostly orchestral folk number with fantastic build and creepy flute that comes from...everywhere. "Just Trying to Be" is a short, sweet number with little acoustic/lullaby effects. "Teacher" is what Ian created when "they" told him "they" needed a pop rocker to help sell the band. No fear, it's still way too strange to be yer standard radio play. I am, however, with Ian on this one; I'm not a fan of this fan favorite. It's a nice enough tune, but it's played for way too long. Amazingly enough, no change in rating. I just...don't feel it. Sorry.)

The Whistler | 4/5 |

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