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Jethro Tull - Benefit CD (album) cover

BENEFIT

Jethro Tull

 

Prog Folk

3.91 | 1011 ratings

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TCat
4 stars 'Benefit' was the 3rd album by Jethro Tull, released between 'Stand Up' and 'Aqualung'. The band considered this one a lot easier to make than 'Stand Up' because it was more a product of the record company demanding an album and the band members didn't have the freedom they had with 'Stand Up'. Ian Anderson also said it was a dark album because of their frustration with the heavy schedule of touring and frustration with the music business. It also was the first album to feature John Evan on keyboard who Anderson said was so much better to work with and gave him more freedom to do what he wanted. Evan, at the time of recording, was only a session musician, but would become a regular member afterwards.

This is more of a hard rock oriented album than a progressive album as they hadn't quite established that sound yet. It was released at the same time that so many riff oriented artists were releasing albums, thus, to follow suit, Anderson also considers this a riff-oriented album. It definitely is more guitar oriented and based off simpler rock riff than what their later albums would be, but it also shows a natural movement towards the more folk and progressive side. It also shows a more natural progression towards the upcoming and ever popular 'Aqualung' album to come.

It starts out with 'With You There to Help Me' and with an echoing flute and a folk-ish lilt, you can hear the beginning of the sound that they would become famous for. There are also hints of the progressive music to come with non-standard chord changes aplenty. The song stays in the folk feel but with occasional bursts of guitar throughout. There is a nice call and answer section at the extended instrumental ending between flute and guitar that make things interesting.

'Nothing to Say' starts with a weaker guitar riff, but the vocal melody is decent enough. It's in this track that the weakness of the album starts to show through. The music just doesn't have the flair of the previous track and is not very memorable. 'Alive and Well and Living In' is more acoustical guitar and piano with bursts of flute and electric guitar. 'Son' is heavier with a more complex melody, but this fades strangely enough and is taken over by an acoustic section and then returns to the original heaviness. 'For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me' is also mostly acoustic with a softer and folkier feel and a meter that changes alternatively from one section to another.

'To Cry You a Song' returns to music based on a few heavy riffs. It features processed vocals. It is a little closer to a progressive song with some nice hooks, but it seems as if it's missing any soul or emotion, almost clinical. It could have been a much better song with a little more work, but it was probably rushed. 'A Time for Everything?' sounds too much like the track before it, except for a little more flute, but at least it's a bit shorter. 'Inside' is a bit better, based off of a repeating flute riff and a nice and memorable folk melody. 'Play in Time' is a toe tapping flute and electric guitar riff playing together with a great rock feel. There are some interesting textures that seem to be achieved by backward recording that gives it a psychedelic flavor.

Last of all, at least on the original release, is 'Sossity; You're a Woman'. It starts as a nice acoustic tune with a baroque feel. It's a perfect song to close the album with the nice acoustic feel all the way through.

The 2001 CD reissue added 4 more tracks that were b-sides and outtakes to this that help to flesh out the album a bit more. 'Singing All Day' is a great, yet simple song that I feel would have made the perfect single. 'Witch's Promise' is also acoustic with a flourishing flute and a more complex melody than the previous one. It utilizes a mellotron later on in the track. This was a non-album single. The third bonus track is a short little ditty called 'Just Trying To Be'. Last of all it the UK mix of 'Teacher' which was substituted (in a slightly different mix) for 'Alive and Well and Living In' on the US release of the original album. It is has a theme that is somewhat familiar in the states.

This album is good, with a few great highlights in 'Sossity' and 'With You There to Help Me', and it works well as a bridge between the albums that came before and after, and it has some echoes of where the band would go after this, but it still doesn't come close to the brilliance of 'Aqualung' and isn't quite as well thought out as 'Stand Up'. But it shows a band in flux and under the influence of the music industry. Fortunately, the next album 'Aqualung' would prove to be the first album to really put the band into the spotlight in a great way.

TCat | 4/5 |

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