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.
In many ways Benefit is Tull’s forgotten album, bookended 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. As a result of its dark and moody feel, Benefit may very well prove to be the Tull album that eventually receives kudos from ‘the kids’ and therefore may very well lead to a mass re-evaluation of the band’s output.