Review Summary: An album more interesting as a historical document than as a piece of music, Benefit can come across as meandering and aimless in it's original state.Darwinius masillae
is, to evolutionary biologists, an incredibly fascinating species. A specimen, nicknamed Ida, has lead scientists to greater understand how primates developed, and has even been touted as the “missing link” in human evolution. In the same way, Benefit
is an incredibly fascinating album for Jethro Tull fan. Benefit
marked the transition from the lighthearted and carefree Stand Up
to the more serious Aqualung
, and as such a knowledge of this album is crucial in order to understand how Jethro Tull grew from a blues-rock band into a progressive ensemble. However, Benefit
is marred by it’s overbearingly solemn and pessimistic tone, along with inconsistent songwriting.
, Jethro Tull decided to write darker, more serious music. As a result, the album comes across as uncharacteristically somber and cynical, almost dishearteningly so. At first glance, the playfulness and humor that made Jethro Tull so enjoyable is almost entirely absent. On later albums, Jethro Tull would learn to include songs like The Tale Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles
or Locomotive Breath
to offset the gloomy mood set by the more serious tunes, but this never happens on Benefit
(with the exception, arguably, being To Cry You A Song
. It’s still cynical, but, at the very least, it’s upbeat). Consequentially, it’s much harder to listen to Benefit
than any another pre-Thick As A Brick
album, which is really quite a shame, as much of the material on this album is rather strong, once one gets acquainted with it.
After some brief experimentation with folk music on Stand Up
, Anderson decided to go further in this direction, and so a surprising portion of Benefit
is acoustic. This decision yielded some stunningly pretty songs, most notably Sossisty; You’re A Woman
, with it’s haunting flute leads and sardonic melodies. Unfortunately, at this early stage of their career, Jethro Tull lacked the experience and skill to write tunes interesting and catchy enough to occupy the listener’s attention. Songs such as With You There To Help Me
and Nothing To Say
are just about identical and not particularly interesting.
Despite the backing instruments certainly being pretty, the songs themselves offer very few tangible melodies to draw the listener in and keep them occupied throughout the album’s forty minute-long runtime. Many of the tunes, such as the aimless Son
and the dull A Time For Everything
, for example, end up boring the listener and descending into meandering gibberish. Despite Anderson’s attempts to give these ditties life by throwing in mood changes, they, sadly, remain painfully tedious.
Heavier tunes, such as To Cry You A Song
(perhaps the only song here that would not look out of place on Stand Up
), with it’s addictive, edgy blues riffs and soaring vocal lines, fare better than the majority of acoustic material, but these moments of salvation are few and far between. Fortunately, Anderson is occasionally able to pen a memorable melody on some softer songs, such as the relaxing, thought still somewhat cynical, For Michael Collins, Jeffery, And Me
In the end, Benefit
is, as an album, not particularly enjoyable. The strong songs (and there are quite a few) are brought down by the seas of weaker material, and so the album is ruined by inconsistency. On top of this, it’s overly humorless and somber, making it even more dreary. As a historical document, however, it’s priceless. Jethro Tull made plenty of mistakes on this album, and after it’s release they swiftly corrected them. The band would learn to balance grim tunes with cheerful material, to write strong, folky melodies, and to be cynical and sardonic without sacrificing wit and humor. Without learning from the mistakes made on this album, classics such as Aqualung
and Thick As A Brick
would have arguably never been made, or would have been, at the least, infinitely less enthralling.
To Cry You A Song
Sossity; You’re A Woman
For Michael Collins, Jeffery And Me
Postscript: If one were to go about buying this album, I would strongly
urge them to buy Chrysallis’ digital remaster. This edition not only has superior sound quality, but, more importantly, contains four bonus songs (roughly thirteen minutes of music). These songs, Singing All Day
(my personal favorite of Tull’s blues material), Witch’s Promise
, Just Trying To Be
, and Teacher
, are all far stronger than the best material on this album and deserve to be in every Tull fan’s library. In fact, I would recommend buying the album just for these tracks. They offer some light and carefree (or, rather, not overly cynical) music to serve as a break from the moody, edgy contents of Benefit
. Additionally, they have some of the band’s best riffs and melodies, so they are certainly worthy of your time.
Remastered Edition Recommended Songs:
Singing All Day
To Cry You A Song
Sossity; You’re A Woman
The remaster would earn a respectable 4/5.