on June 16, 2004
For starters, I'm not crazy about remasters of original releases, especially with new tracks. I mean, the original is the original. If I wanted an extension, I'd buy a "best of" and be really happy. But still...
Imagine 1970, a house on a lake in the woods with nothing to do for a day. My true introduction to Tull was in Columbia, MO. "Stand Up" was an eye opener. But "Benefit"? That's where the house on the lake comes in. Nothing to do but listen to Benefit over and over and over and so on. Remember, it was 1970, the house was in New Hampshire and everybody I knew was on some sort of jag. Ten tracks of angst, anger and re-or-un requited romance. all set to the edged voice and whispering like thunder flute of Ian Anderson, bash-about drums of Clive Bunker, the strong bass rythym of Martin Barrre and the co-lead-work of Mick Abrams. After 18 hours straight, these guys were inside my head.
For openers, "With You There To Help Me" plaintively weaves the story of someone who's just about had it. The saving grace is you, probably. The lyrics are cleverly twisted while the melodies segue through a plodding set up and end the song with joyful whispers.
"Inside" is a marvelous desription of relationships and the comforts of home, while "Son" is a true teen tirade. "To Cry You a Song" sums up the regrets for the night before.
The seven remaining cuts are just a strong. The album closes with "Sossity, You're a Woman" is the tenderest of "its not me, its you" breakup tunes.
All in all, this is one of my most loved recordings. Too bad the "new age" re-releasers of this gem had to add the bonus tracks.
on February 20, 2004
The early Tull albums are more bluesy and hard rocking than their later albums from the late 1970's till today.
This also goes for "Benefit" their 1971 album. Many of the tunes are based on guitar riffs such as "To Sing You a Song", "Teacher" and "Play in Time" .
This is one their most consistent albums, with no filler/weak tracks, though some of the songs may sound a bit dated to young listeners. Most of the tunes are both melodic and rocking, a few quiet songs there too; among them 3 of the bonus tracks "Just Trying to Be", "Singing All Day" and "Witch's Promise" which were originally released on the compilation album "Living in the Past". The last bonus track "Teacher" comes from the American version of the original Benefit album.
Jethro Tull was always Ian Anderson's project with many changes in the line-ups; but he always chose brilliant musicians, and allowed them to show their skills. On this album especially exquisite guitarist and long-time member Martin Barre.
My favourites: "Son", "For Michael Collins", "To Cry You a Song" and "Sossity, You're a Woman"
on August 5, 2003
In the vast Tull catalogue, this 1970 effort stands out as a neglected classic, coming as it did on the heels of the hugely successful Stand Up. Ian Anderson's songs were becoming more complex, and shifting away markedly from his early Blues influences. The maturity of his songwriting, and of the band's playing, are illustrated perfectly by the opening track "With You There to Help Me", a broody and introspective piece that breaks out into a group tour de force. This album also welcomed keyboards player John Evan, who filled out the sound and freed guitarist Martin Barre to assume the leading instrumental role he has played in the group ever since. Listen to his slashing licks, dueling with Anderson's shrieking echoed flute, which climaxes this track. Magic.
Jethro Tull were touring heavily in the States at this time, accused of neglecting audiences back in the UK, and finding the darker side of the music business unpalatable. In the notes written for this reissue in 2001, Anderson talks of "a growing cynicism" and "a sense of alienation". Ironically, it is such conditions that often bring out the best in songwriters, as they lock themselves away in anonymous hotel rooms, escaping the noise outside by drowning themselves in their music. Anderson was no different, resisting the American influences he felt were creeping into many fellow British bands. His flute had endowed Tull with a distinctly Celtic touch from the start, but he now gave full rein to this aspect on songs like "Play In Time", which is a revved-up electric jig that would have given him plenty of opportunity to play the lunatic on stage. In a similar but quieter vein, "Sossity, You're a Woman" displays a strong folk flavour in Anderson's acoustic guitar playing. Bands like the Strawbs and Barclay James Harvest were to follow similar paths in the 70s.
Contrast this with "Alive and Well and Living In", Anderson's flute and Evans' piano combining to take the jazz and rock idioms into areas that were to be explored widely in the decade ahead. It's a strong pointer to the conceptual complexities of Thick As A Brick that were to come two years later.
"Son" is a more acidic view of the generation gap than, for example, the sentimental picture painted by Cat Stevens' "Father and Son" ("If you're good, when you grow up, we will buy you a bike."). "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me" will puzzle anyone born after the 1960s. Collins was the third man in the 1969 Apollo expedition to the moon. While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin got to go down to the surface and fool around, Collins had to stay behind and keep the orbiting mother ship in trim. It was a song that reflected Anderson's own previously stated sense of alienation ("It's on my mind, I'm left behind when I should have been there, walking with you.").
"To Cry You A Song" and "A Time For Everything" were strong guitar-driven numbers which were precursors to the following album, Aqualung. "Inside", Benefit's single, was arguably the band's last Blues-flavoured song, Anderson's flute motif producing a haunting air over Glenn Cornick's fluid bass lines (it was to be Cornick's last album with Tull).
Bonuses on this reissue include the classic singles, "The Witch's Promise" and "Teacher" - described as "close cousins" to Benefit by Anderson, having been recorded only weeks before the album. These stand out in my view as two of the finest musical tracks laid down at the end of the 1960s. The former again illustrates Tull's folk roots in an eerie tale of enchantment, while the latter is a hedonistic rock anthem ("Jump up, look around, find yourself some fun") that I can recall making parties come alive as Anderson's fierce flute traded centre stage with Barre's guitar.
Radio DJs referred to this as "underground" music, and later it became "progressive". Whatever the labels, it signalled the emergence of the album as a musical art form in its own right. What followed was a sharp contrast from the innocent-sounding 45s that cranked out of tinny speakers on the beach; this was music that made demands of the listener. You couldn't dance to it - at least not a dance that had a name. It heralded an era when musicians began to rule the studios, telling the fat cat producers to just twiddle the nobs and shut up, and challenging the industry to catch up with the creative flow that defied all the established rules. This music wanted you to listen seriously, and think about what it was saying.
Recorded on the cusp of a new decade, Benefit must now take its place as a watershed in the rock music idiom. What's more, it's worn surprisingly well.
on April 22, 2003
My review is on the un-remastered version of Benefit which is the one that I own. For some reason, Amazon includes the same reviews for this album under both the remastered and unremastered CDs even though there is definitely a difference between the two. Looking at the extra tracks on the remastered CD, I see no reason to spend my money on another copy of Benefit since I already have the bonus tracks on either Living in the Past or the 20th Anniversary boxed set. From reading the other reviews, the "UK version" of "Teacher" isn't anything special either. Also, why is "Sossity" and "You're a Woman" listed as two separate tracks? I'll stay with my CD copy of Benefit, thank you.
Now, as to the album itself, after putting my top JT albums list together for Amazon, I decided that Benefit is my favorite Tull record. I enjoy this one (and even Stand Up) even more than Aqualung. For the most part, Benefit is brilliant from start to finish. The only weakness is "To Cry You A Song", which is overly repetitive at times and, unfortunately, is the longest track on the album at 6:09. I tolerate that track, though, because the rest of the album is so awesome. "With You There To Help Me" hooked me right away. It is an innovative number which brilliantly balances the edge between art and noise. "Son" is a sarcastic, humorous track about a young man's estrangement from a stereotypical strict father (using all those fatherly clichés). One gets the idea of what Ian Anderson's relationship with his pop was like when listening to the angry lyrics. Every time I hear "Don't talk like that I'm you're old man" I have to chuckle. "Sossity; You're A Woman" is a soothing ending to the album. "Teacher" is probably the most well-known song from Benefit, being included on the US release and on M.U. The Best of Jethro Tull. Although it is one of the first tracks I ever heard from Tull and I love it, it is really in the middle of the pack in terms of the top songs on Benefit. My favorite is "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey, and Me." Certain parts of this song are too wonderful for words. If your Jethro Tull collection starts with Aqualung, make sure you get their earlier albums Stand Up and this brilliant work. And, since you will probably be hooked on Tull's music and will be buying up their back catalog anyway, don't worry about getting the remastered CD, as you'll get the "bonus tracks" elsewhere.
on February 25, 2003
1) Sorry, a decision not to "schedule" "Living in the Past" in "the remastered catalogue" does NOT "justify" the "inclusion of those tracks from ["Living in the Past"], here" or "in the other remastered CDs". One crime against art does not justify another. Two wrongs don't make a right.
2) Even if it is true (and I'm dubious) that the ordering of the songs we find here was the original "British" ordering, in contradistinction to the U.S. ordering, it is still very reasonable to fault the ordering we find here. The "U.S." ordering, if U.S. ordering it be, is distinctly superior to this.
3) Contrary to what one may hear from the Jethro Tull camp (or hear from those who claim to hear it from the Jethro Tull camp), the "Living in the Past" songs were originally excluded from various Jethro Tull records because they were judged inferior: Jethro Tull didn't suddenly discover anew at each recording session that a vinyl disc can only hold so many songs. They are not so inferior that that they aren't worth owning collected together onto one record, but they are inferior to the original (and TRUE) "Stand Up", "Benefit", "Aqualung", "Thick as a Brick", and "A Passion Play".
4) Neither Jethro Tull, nor its record company, nor anyone, is authorized by the Gods of Time to rewrite the past.
on February 25, 2002
Benefit marks the third and the last album of the early formative period of Jethro Tull. (The collection Living in the Past, released a couple of years later, is also from this period.) While the band's music has continually changed during this period, Benefit feels more a leap-forward than a gradual evolution. Much of the album sounds startlingly modern and experimental (particularly, Time For Everything, Play in Time) and must have sounded more so at the time of its release. The music is intricate and multi-layered, and yet somehow natural and organic, a feat that is well demonstrated in the opening song, With You There to Help Me. The crescendo of flute, keys, guitars (both acoustic and electric) and vocals is so carefully crafted, that one marvels at the cohesiveness of the piece. Yet, there is nothing gratuitous about it, with every note seeming to serve some higher aesthetic purpose. The use of instrumentation to convey texture and meaning to the song is indeed a novel aspect of the album. For instance, the introduction of the electric guitar in the otherwise acoustic Alive And Well and Living In provides a gritty feel to the song and serves to awaken the listener to the true import of the lyrics. But, the real revelation is Ian's voice and vocalizations. At times, stentorian and impassioned (Son, Nothing To Say) and, at times, tender and caring (Inside, For Michael Collins, Sossity), he bravely soars over the instrumentation and takes melodic centre stage. His lyrical themes do not depart significantly from previous material and, typically, focus on personal issues of life and love; however, the lyrics are more poetic and hint at the kind of imagery that Ian will turn to more in future work.
Benefit may lack the kind of individual masterpieces (except, perhaps, To Cry You a Song, which I don't much care for) that find everlasting life in "greatest-of" compilations or in live sets, but don't let this mislead you. This is THE album where Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson find their niche. Listen to it carefully, and you will see why Aqualung, Thick as a Brick and Passion Play had to happen.
on February 8, 2002
Unlike the other reviews on this page, I'm not rating the quality
of the remaster (which I think is fine anyway; yes it could've
had more photos or bonus tracks, but what is there is fine and
the sound quality is superb) so much as the album itself. And
"Benefit" is one monster of an album from when Ian Anderson was
operating at the very peak of his abilities. Having made
what remains their greatest work "Stand Up" and just a few
months away from their acknowledged 'big one' "Aqualung", it
should be no surprise that "Benefit" is magical from beginning
to end. And with the advantage of the CD format, one can
program the bonus track "Teacher" (which was on the US version
of the album anyway) to replace the only weak track here, "Son"
(try it--it flows seamlessly with the other tracks on side one).
Otherwise, the album is very similar to "Stand Up" in that
it presents a winning combination of blues-based hard rock with
progressive touches; nowhere is this better demonstrated than
on the opening "With You There To Help Me", which closes with
a stunning tradeoff jam between flute and guitar that just might
be my all-time favorite Tull moment. Songs like "Inside", "Alive
And Well And Living In" and "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And
Me" display the same kind of affecting warmth in the vocals
and lyrics that made "Stand Up" such a joy, a warmth that would
disappear in the midst of the grandiose concept ambition of
the next album.
Although out of all Tull albums "Benefit" is most similar to
its predecessor "Stand Up" (and a great thing that it is!),
there are differences which foreshadow what was to come. The
album has darker themes and a heavier guitar sound than anything
on "Stand Up", the addition of John Evan on keyboards and the mix is a little rougher (although the remaster makes it sound more polished than it has ever been, which is another reason why I give it a thumbs up). For example, there is nothing on "Stand Up" like the heavy backwards interlude in "To Play In Time". Anderson also forgoes the flute on "Nothing To Say", "For Michael Collins", "To Cry You A Song" and the closing beauty "Sossity". The songs on what used to be side two (tracks 6-10) also seem to have a kind of thematic connection, making for a mini-concept which again foreshadows the increasing ambitions of "Aqualung", "Thick As A Brick" and "Passion Play". However, on those later albums Anderson would never again sound as personal and human as he does here. Taken together, "Benefit"
along with "Stand Up" remains the peak of Tull's career, although
that's not to say that one should ignore their 70s work.
One last note--the bonus tracks "Singing All Day", "Witch's
Promise" and "Just Trying To Be" (as well as "Teacher", but I always program that one with the album) are equally
terrific and masterpieces in their own right.
on February 1, 2002
"Benefit" is not GREAT album. It is a very good one, but very uneven. It was one of the first Tull albums I bought when I firts got into the band about 12 years ago, so I do have a special place for it in my heart. But, time has given me some objectivity.
The lead of track, "With you there to help me" is fantastic... so is "For Michael Collins, Jeffery and Me"... "Inside" and "To cry you a song" are very, very good. From there, throughout the album , you'll find some good bits, but those are definitely the rather obvious high points. The old version of this CD had "Teacher" as part of the album... I've never onwed this on anything other than CD and Tape, so I don't know if it should be an album track or not. Anyway, the included version is great, and "Teacher" is definitely gold-star material.
The reissue is a pretty lean package, but the sound is better overall, although even that might be arguably. The old CD was brighter sounding with more tape hiss. This new issue is darker and more recessed. It has better dynamic, overall, but the "life" seems sucked out of the recording along with all the hiss... matter or opinion, I guess. There are a couple of bonus tracks... would have liked more. They could have filled out the disc. ... Compared to another recent Hollywood and Vine reissue series of another of my favorite groups, The Beach Boys, I give this series the thumbs down: I like how the BB albums are two-on-one CD and full-priced. It's just more convenient. In fact, I don't plan on buying all of the Tull reissue--- just the albums I really love. I'm looking foward to some of the underrated later stuff--- "Heavy Horse", "Storm watch" "Broadsword", etc.
on January 24, 2002
The music: in a word, groovy. The band's evolution continued apace, and the addition of John Evan on keyboard allowed textures that the band hadn't previously been capable of. It's a curiously dark, introspective album, and on the best songs that darkness can be quite beautiful.
The remaster: the best remasters series out there (such as the Who's and the Kinks', and anything on Rhino) include lengthy, detailed essays, reproductions of single sleeves, ads, band photos and other memorabilia, and try to round up all available rare tracks from the period covered by the album in question.
The new Tull remasters fall a bit short on these counts. They include nice essays by Ian Anderson, but these are a bit sketchy and could have been complemented by more information from another expert. All original album art is restored, but no other period photos or memorabilia are reproduced. And while the extra tracks that are included are wonderful and necessary, there is a little more out there that could have been included. It would have been nice if they could have rounded up some unreleased or live material, but the biggest omission here is the alternate version of "Teacher." Contrary to what the Amazon description says, this reissue only includes ONE version of the song, what is called the "original UK mix." This is the version that was on MU and other Tull compilations, and was on the US version of the album (at least the cassette I had in the '80s). There is another version, quite different and quite wonderful, which was released as the b-side to "Witch's Promise" and included on the 20 Years Of Jethro Tull box set. Since the box has been out of print for many years, it would have behooved the record company to include this version on the remaster, as well. It's a glaring omission. --Quibbles, yes, but a well-done reissue is such a joy...
That said, the sound and packaging are a vast improvement over the previously-available CD.
on January 12, 2002
First off, this is my favourite Tull album of all time. There was never another album that sounded quite like this one, and that puts it in a class by itself. First the positive: A great cd to be sure plus bonus tracks. Now the negative: Amazingly, there is no deluxe booklet(which there should have been)no lyrics and no information about the remastering, just some brief notes by Ian Anderson and that's it. The sound is both a blessing as well as a curse. The newly remastering breathes life into this gem by clarifying the instruments. Unfortunately, the curse is increased grunge and distortion(intentional?)as well as a overall muddy soundstage. The 80's remastered copy suffers the same fate with increased tape hiss. Now granted, this is a 32 year old recording and perhaps this is as good as it will ever be. But since this is my favourite cd by Tull, I was expecting a complete remastering clean-up. Sadly, it was not to be. I still love this cd and would never give it up but if you are a Tull fan of this title, don't expect miracles with the sound quality. 14 Tracks/54.55.