Jethro Tull

Chrysalis Records, 1970

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The early works of British rockers Jethro Tull can be seen as a series of progressions. They went from Fleetwood Mac-like blues on This Was to a more jazz-oriented groove with Stand Up. But their third album, Benefit, marked a turn towards a more experimental sound -- one which is pretty difficult to categorize.

More of a rock-oriented disc than the two previous efforts, Benefit shows Ian Anderson and crew striving to take a few more chances with the music this time around. For the most part, these experiments worked, but it's a little off-putting the first couple of listens. (I'm working off of the re-mastered version, which includes four bonus tracks, and makes a minor shuffle of the track listing I grew up knowing on vinyl.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The opening number "With You There To Help Me" is exhibit "A" of what is to come from Jethro Tull, both now and in their future. With a backbeat that suggests both jazz and a touch of adult-contemporary, Anderson almost creates a chant-like atmosphere with the initial vocals before allowing himself and the band to release some energy in the chorus. It's an interesting mix, but one that surprisingly holds up well.

The overall sound on Benefit would have to be labeled "unstructured," just because of the jumping from style to style. From the rock-oriented "Teacher" (still an incredible song) to an almost introspective style on "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me," from the friendly lecture styles of "Inside" and "Son" to a defiant stance on "Nothing To Say," the band is literally all over the board with this one.

This, in the end, turns out to be the biggest hurdle the listener has to jump. It becomes mentally exhausting to try and keep up with each stylistic change that Jethro Tull tries to make with each song, and while the works in and of themselves are solid, after a while the listener almost feels overwhelmed by the whole process.

The four "bonus" tracks are -- at least to me -- no surprise, having heard them before on Living In The Past. They do feel like natural additions to the disc (even though I list "Teacher" as an original track on my vinyl copy of Benefit, while "Alive And Well And Living In" wasn't on the record originally), and blend right in with the musical scenery.

Benefit sometimes feels like you're running a marathon to get through the disc, but in the end it turns out to be a worthwhile excursion. Yet another of the "forgotten" discs in Jethro Tull's career, this is one which calls for people to dig into their stacks of vinyl, dust it off and give it a few more spins.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.