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Jethro Tull - Benefit CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.91 | 985 ratings

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4 stars For the first of JETHRO TULL's string of platinum selling albums, "Benefit" tends to be glossed over if not ignored outright, but this has as much to do with the impact of "Aqualung" and "Thick as a Brick" as anything. As those behemoths rocked the sales charts and their tours were greeted feverishly, it was easy to forget where their sound originated, in this collection of folk and psych influenced hard rock that seems to constitute Ian Anderson's only significant nod to the singer songwriter era. This is especially notable in the two brilliant opening numbers, with their idealism meets cynicism within Anderson's typically oblique subject matter. The lilting "Sossity you're a woman" is a template for the best that SHAWN PHILLIPS could muster, and the intriguing "Inside" lyrically and melodically slots in just to the cryptic side of GORDON LIGHTFOOT's socially conscious work of that period. Even the vocal style and placement in the mix seem orchestrated so that the words can be heard if not understood. I can't say I got this vibe from subsequent TULL releases, and I've never heard anyone mention this before, so I thought I would include it as justification for yet another review.

Musically, "Benefit" established the interplay of dreamy and aggressive woodwinds with riffs that defined the era, and keyboards and acoustic guitars that reinforced the often breathtaking melodic basis of the songs. "With you there to help me" and "Nothing to say" are too powerful a one two punch to set things up, and, while the rest may not quite measure up, "To Cry you a Song" comes close, its main guitar figure preparing us for "Cross Eyed Mary" and its ilk, and its lead solo presaging the more succinct phrasings of "Aqualung". "Teacher" is another master statement with an invigorating shift in the verse structure and more flute in a heavy rock setting.

Unfortunately, the album suffers from two weaknesses that would permeate most TULL releases: an over-reliance on Anderson's voice, one that should be savored in short sips rather than furtive gulps, and a tendency to include mediocre plod rock material, some probably in service of appealing to the straggling blues fans, but perhaps just as symptomatic as Anderson being too eclectic for his own good. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and round up to 4 stars.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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