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Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom

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The self titled album of quintet band BEN from United Kingdom was a bit of a rarity until the recent re-releases which can introduce this SOFT MACHINE and NUCLEUS influenced instrumental album to a wider audience.


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3.26 | 31 ratings

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BEN Reviews

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 Ben by BEN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.26 | 31 ratings

Ben Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars One of the really serious Vertigo rarities, a British Jazz Rock group with a short life but some fine talent.Ben were saxophonist/flutist Peter Davey, keyboardist/pianist Alex Macleery, guitarist Gerry Reid, bassist Len Surtees and drummer David Sheen, the later coming from Graham Bond's band.Their only self-titled album, which contains four long, instrumental tracks, was released in 1971.

This one falls into the same category as NUCLEUS and IF, it's technically competent Jazz Rock with some great solos and rhythms, varied climates, going from furious guitar moves and frequent instrumental interactions to a smoother keyboard/piano-driven music with a bit of a psychedelic enviroment, like RAY MANZAREK playing the piano.Cool sax work and some strong flute lines are always welcome, I fail to detect any impressive differences between the pieces, but if you ask me ''Christmas execution'' stands out from the bunch, because, unlike the other pieces, the atmosphere here is really dark and dramatic, rarely found in a Jazz Rock composition.It's also the most progressive piece in here with soft electric guitars, harsichord and lots of flute and an excellent second part with an incredible jazzy taste on guitars and eerie keyboard work.''Gibbon'' contains also some sporadic choirs, another element you'll hardly find in a Jazz Rock album, while the two longer pieces ''The influence'' and ''Gismo'', are definitely a lot more jazzier with good instrumental work, some parts with the guitars and sax in the forefront recall VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's jazzy masturbations, but there are very limited progressive values in these with emphasis given to isolated solos.

Len Surtees played with the post-80's edition of The Nashville Teens, while David Sheen was later involved in various Jazz Rock and Fusion groups, including Mirage and the Canterbury-linked Soft Head.

Good Jazz Rock from the fogotten years, containing two very good compositions with a few proggy glimpses and another pair of more standard Jazz workouts.Warmly recommended, original vinyl is incredibly expensive, various reissues exist.

 Ben by BEN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.26 | 31 ratings

Ben Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Oddly enough, or maybe not, this album has stuck with me over many a year. I bought it about 15 years (or so) ago simply because I found that Repertoire Records had released it. By then I was obsessed with a couple of catalogues displaying albums re-released på Repertoire. So, I bought it. I wouldn't say I regret it. Certainly not. On the other hand it proved to be less of an exciting listen than I had expected.

The music is all instrumental jazz-rock. The musicianship is nothing but excellent, yet the music tends to pass me by somewhat. I dig it when I listen but when it is all over there is actually not much sticking. The best track is the firts one, "The influence". This track has this absolutely amazing passage which I cannot describe in musically technical terms. Anyway, you have to listen to it to kniw what. I mean. The remaining tracks are enjoyable and very well played but, as already stated, fails to make a lasting impression. I cannot hum much of it.

Musically it bears resemblence to other bands in the genre. There are bits of everything here, actually. I fins that there are pieces of Graham Bond around 1970-71, Centipede (the melodious parts) and others. I would not say that I am able to find traces of the more popular bands of the genre like Chicago or Blood, Sweat & Tears. This is slightly less oriented towards that kind of jazz-rock. Though not overly complex (on the border of free-form territory that is) it still holds enough complexity to please anyone into this kind of music.

I like this album. It is enjoyable to listen to and holds somewhat of a mystical air to it. Being an obscure album i think that it has hold up well nevertheless. Some obscure albums tend to be less than potent but this is quite powerful music in it's own right. I would not however rate it higher than three stars. It is good but not great. It is simply for those already into the genre and in need for some of that obscure mystery an album like this provides. Good but non essential.

 Ben by BEN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.26 | 31 ratings

Ben Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by progbaby

3 stars 3.5 Really.

I toyed with a 4.0 ratiing but to be honest, I'd be arrogant if I actually believed others would buy this album because I gave it a 4.0 instead of a 3.5, etc... Ratings just a frame of reference.

Number rating aside, this is a very interesting and long time coming review (as I've been meaning to do this for years as I had this album for years) that I finally forced myself to do so I can have closure :-)

Before progarchives in the 1990's, there was a primary web-site of prog reviews by a person whom I respect. So much so that I would spent countless times reading and re-reading his reviews of many albums while I was in my prog-addiction (buying almost anything I could afford that was 70's prog). I agreed with about 90% of his reviews as he tended to rate the ambient prog (ie, Klaus Schulze, etc..) very high and those types of albums were not my cup of tea as I preferred more the symphonic and the jazz/canterbury.

One such album he reviewed had the comment he made which indicated it was perhaps the worst release on the Vertigo Swirl Label. The album he was referring to was this one by Ben. I don't know where they got the name but I have to wonder if it was after the movie Ben/Williard (ie, about the rats) that came out around/about the same time.

His review was not kind to this album and felt the band was "duping" the audience into believing they were hearing something that was well-crafted/meaninful with lots and lots of ideas when in-fact it was a hodge-podge of just a few incomplete ideas that fool you into thinking you're hearing something complex and meaningful. Hints that the music meanders and rambles aimlessly into several areas with no meaning.

Having said that, I bought this album years ago and found listening to it quite enjoyable. Pleasant and relaxing at times, challenging at other times. The music is all instrumental and belongs firmly in the Soft Machine/Canterbury school of Jazz/Prog. Nice saxophone solos, guitar solos, keyboards. The opening 20 seconds of the bass guitar riff on the first song catches my attention right away and I'm basically thinking "Soft machine - Seven". When the sax parts come in, I'm thinking Elton Dean ala "Soft Machine - Five", etc...

To me this music sounds timeless. It may have been 1971 but it sounds no different from a professional 4-5 piece jazz rock band that may be playing today at an opera/stage house in town.

This album hinges more on the instrument canterbury jazz side of things and not the symphonic rock side of things.

If you enjoy listening to the likes of Soft Machine 5 thru Rubber Riffs (including some of the guitar work you hear on those albums) and are hoping for a "good" album in that same vein rather than expecting a "monster classic", then I can't really see any reason why you would not like this album.

As per the original negative thumbs down review of this album at the other source, we all definitely are entitled to our own opinions and I totally respect and honor that. I can say the gentleman who writes those reviews is not a big of Soft Machine type-jazz ala their "Five" thru "Rubber Riffs" period and he is not a fan of jazz-fusion either. Although there's no fusion-elements on this album (nothing at all like Mahavishnu or Chick Corea, etc..), it's still in a particular genre that the reviewer does not like. So I can understand his bias against this album and I honor that .

But for anyone who likes jazz/prog and Soft Machine's "Five thru Rubber Riffs (or even Land of Cockayne(which I really like too) and has heard bad things about this album which scares you into checking it out, I can say with honesty that I paid $20 for this album several years ago and I have never regretted it. Each time I pop it in, I'm taken back to 1971 to some underground jazz/canterbury club listening to a band that was every bit as talented to what I hear on Soft Machine "Five" thru "Rubber Riffs". Most particular if I had to compare this to a specific album, I'd say "Soft Machine -Seven".

Nice album this Ben is. Wish they would have done more. A nice 3.5 stars.

Thanks to evolver for the artist addition.

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