[Review] Jethro Tull: Benefit (1970)

This marks the true beginning of the electrified Tull and the end of the classic lineup with Glenn Cornick.

Kronomyth 3.0: Prequelung.

The beneficiary of a rich sonic contrast that brought elements of light (acoustic guitar, John Evan’s piano) and dark (Martin Barre’s electric guitars) into the mix. Benefit is a noisier, heavier record than anything the band had done to date and a harbinger of what would follow (Aqualung et al). Where Stand Up played up the band’s acoustic side and thus had a bluesy gentility to it, Benefit bares its teeth in the distorted, drenched electric end of the musical spectrum.

Ian Anderson had already shown a penchant for animalism in his flute solos. Now taking a wider berth behind the boards, he was able to carry that style over to the other instruments, notably for the electric guitars. The folk sensibilities remain, but they’re subordinated to rock riffs that suggest Led Zeppelin on a lighter scale, especially on the riff-driven To Cry You a Song and Son.

To the dismay of some, Anderson was also growing more indulgent in his lyric delivery, dripping with disdain on Nothing to Say and Play in Time. In many ways, he was becoming the Frank Zappa of folk/rock, creating intricately knotted ribbons of music on which to hang his effigies. As a result, the remaining pockets of youthful innocence (Inside, For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me) now sound disingenuous and out of place, the first casualties of the new Jethro Tull.

To balance the darkness, Anderson would come to rely on humor to rise above the fray he’d made. Teacher, for example, with its clockwork precision, is part of a select company of Tull songs that pokes fun at philosophizing (c.f. “Fat Man,” “Thick As A Brick edit #1”). The album ends with the semi-colonnaded Sossity; You’re A Woman, an acoustic wonder that holds its own with the best of them (including the first half of “Stairway To Heaven”). Benefit affords the listener their choice of the hot sun or cool shade—that is, without the inhospitable heat of a bright concept hanging over their heads. Some saw it as the end of the line, others the beginning, making it one of the few Tull albums most fans can agree to enjoy.

Original elpee version

A1. With You There to Hep Me
A2. Nothing to Say
A3. Alive and Well and Living In
A4. Son
A5. For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me
B1. To Cry You a Song
B2. A Time for Everything?
B3. Inside
B4. Play in Time
B5. Sossity; You’re a Woman

Original elpee version (US)
A1. With You There to Help Me (6:15)
A2. Nothing to Say (5:10)
A3. Inside (3:46)
A4. Son (2:48)
A5. For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me (3:47)
B1. To Cry You a Song (6:09)
B2. A Time for Everything? (2:42)
B3. Teacher (3:57)
B4. Play in Time (3:44)
B5. Sossity; You’re a Woman (4:31)

All selections written by Ian Anderson.

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. Singing All Day
12. Witches Promise
13. Just Trying to Be
14. Teacher (original UK mix)

The Players

Ian Anderson (vocals, acoustic guitar, flute, balalaika, keyboards), Martin Barre (electric guitar), Clive Bunker (drums, percussion), Glenn Cornick (bass guitar) with John Evan (piano, organ), Dee Palmer (orchestral arrangements). Produced by Ian Anderson; executive producer: Terry Ellis; engineered by Robin Black.

The Pictures

Cover design by Terry Ellis and Ruan O’Lochlainn. Photography by Ruan O’Lochlainn. Graphic presentation by Ken Reilly.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on April 20, 1970 in the UK (Island, ILPS 9123), the US and Canada (Reprise, RS/8RM 6400), Argentina (Reprise, 112939), Germany (Island, 6339 009), Mexico (Reprise/Gamma, GX01-396) with regional gatefold cover. Reached #3 on the UK charts and #11 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Brazil (Chrysalis, 6307 516).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (Chrysalis, 202658).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1973 in the UK and the US (Chrysalis, CHR 1043).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1983 in the US (Chrysalis, PV 41043).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in June 1987 in the UK (Chrysalis, CDP32 10432).
  6. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2002 in the UK (EMI, 535457) and on January 8, 2002 in the US (Chrysalis, 35457) with 4 bonus tracks.
  7. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc on June 23, 2003 in Japan (EMI/Toshiba, TOCP-65881) with 4 bonus tracks.

2 thoughts on “[Review] Jethro Tull: Benefit (1970)

  1. Jethro Tull are my favorite band too. I know it doesn’t matter much but on the US release of Benefit “Alive
    and Well and Living In” was replaced with the hard-rock flute version of “Teacher”, which was never on the ‘real’ UK Benefit. “Inside” was originally the 3rd track on side 2 with “Alive and Well” being the 3rd track on the first side. For the US release (the one we all knew and loved) they put the flute version of “Teacher” in place of “Inside” (at B3) which was moved to “Alive and Well”‘s place (A3). That lost song ended up Alive and Well and “Living In…the Past”. By the way, I enjoy your writing very much.

    1. Hah! I had to laugh when I read “I know it doesn’t matter much…” I’ve used those exact words many times in explaining this strange little site (e.g., “I know it doesn’t matter much but I like to create discographies of musical artists”). Of course, the detail matters to me, so I really appreciate the additional information. I’ll have to update this page accordingly. And thank you for the kind words about my writing. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, you may want to check out the wonderful Tull reviews at altrockchick.com (admittedly, almost a worse name for a music website than progrography).

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