JETHRO TULL – ” Benefit ” Released 20th April 1970 Classic Albums

Posted: April 20, 2020 in MUSIC
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benefit

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Jethro Tull’s third studio album, ‘Benefit’.

The album featured pianist and organist John Evan for the first time and was the last to include bassist Glenn Cornick. As with its predecessors, it was recorded at Morgan Studios in London. Speaking about the album, Ian Anderson described it as much darker than ‘This Was’ and ‘Stand Up’.

For some reason Jethro Tull are never spoken of in the same hushed tones of awe as Led Zeppelin or King Crimson. Or Deep Purple and Yes. Or Wishbone Ash…

Quite why that is may be down to the fact that their style was very difficult to pigeon hole and emulate, therefore no one has been obviously influenced by them. You never hear of any up and coming bands naming Tull as an influence, they never got name checked by the likes of The Mars Volta or Tool. Tull weren’t embraced by younger generations like the majority of their peers were and perhaps they never will.

“Benefit” was not the huge leap forwards that Stand Up had been from This Was, but what it did was consolidate Tull’s position as one of the best rock bands in the world. It’s a far more moody and darker album than anything they had recorded previously, relying on sweaty riffing and studio trickery to create the ambiance. Unlike a lot of Tull’s albums there’s little in the way of good humored material, with only the satirical “Son”, the strangely poppy “Inside” and the reflective “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me” doing anything to lift the mood slightly.

On the flip side that means that the album is liberally studded with unsung riff-rock, the best example here is the glorious “To Cry You A Song”, and the album closes with one of it’s best tracks, the acoustic “Sossity; You’re A Woman”.

Musically the band is on form throughout and were playing as well as ever. They temporarily recruited keyboard player John Evans, who actually stuck around for the next decade or so, which broadened their sound somewhat, but the keyboards here act as a compliment to the rest of the music and they are utilised only when absolutely necessary.

Ian Anderson said that Benefit was a “guitar riff” album, recorded in a year in which artists like Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were becoming more riff-oriented. Anderson also noted that Benefit is “a rather dark and stark album and, although it has a few songs on it that are rather okay, I don’t think it has the breadth, variety or detail that Stand Up has. But it was an evolution in terms of the band playing as ‘a band.'” Overall, Anderson considered the album “a natural part of the group’s evolution”.

According to Martin Barre “To Cry You a Song” was a response to Blind Faith’s “Had to Cry Today”, “although you couldn’t compare the two; nothing was stolen … The riff crossed over the bar in a couple of places and Ian and I each played guitars on the backing tracks. It was more or less live in the studio with a couple of overdubs and a solo. Ian played my Gibson SG and I played a Les Paul on it

In many ways Benefit is Jethro Tull’s forgotten album, book ended as it is by two of the band’s most popular albums on either side. I get the increasing feeling though that its relative obscurity will (oh dear) benefit it in the end though, because it’s often obscure albums like this that catch the ear of younger generations.

Jethro Tull doing ‘Teacher’ from the ‘Benefit’ album, 1970. On Beat-Club was a German music program that ran from 1965 to the end of 1972. It was broadcast from Bremen, Germany initially on Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen, the national public TV channel. Beat-Club was replaced by the programme ‘Musikladen’ in 1972.

By April 1970, Jethro Tull had already released a pair of studio albums, but their career-defining fourth LP, Aqualung, wouldn’t arrive until March of the following year, at which point it would almost overshadow its predecessor, the underrated Benefit.

On the one hand, group members Ian Anderson (who provided vocals, flute and acoustic guitar), guitarist Martin Barre, bassist Glenn Cornick and drummer Clive Bunker were somewhat at odds with their record company, and worn out by extensive touring. On the other, they were enjoying a rare moment of lineup stability (though future keyboard player John Evan was already unofficially on hand), and the success of the previous year’s Stand Up had given them the confidence to carry on experimenting, moving ever further from their Brit-blues roots of 1968’s tellingly named This Was …

So for Benefit, “transition” may indeed have been the operative word, as the band unveiled an eclectic set containing a little bit of the old, a little of the new and some things that would never be repeated.

‘Benefit’ is guitarist Martin Barre’s favourite Jethro Tull album.

John Evan, who played piano and organ on the album “for our benefit”, and subsequently joined the band for ten years, was actually named John Evans. His missing ‘s’ was a deliberate hangover from the pre-Jethro Tull group The John Evan Band, because it sounded ‘cooler’.

Michael Collins, name-checked in the song For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me, was the member of the Apollo 11 space-mission who stayed in the main capsule while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

Comments
  1. Jim S. says:

    Not an obscure album for me at all. This is where I came in with this band and I saw them live at Fillmore East with my chums right around the time this album came out. I’ve been kinda fixated on “Thick as a Brick” lately but I need to go back and listen to this. Lotsa good stuff.

    • lizsamdog says:

      i think the album gets missed as it became between two exceptional releases from the band i saw the Tull on this tour at Birmingham Town Hall and Martin Barre guitar playing was terrific certainly a stand out gig. there is apparently a 50 year box set coming soon so that should be wonderful addition.

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