We live in an age of reissues. Indeed, name any classic album of the 1960’s to the 80’s and its pretty much guaranteed there has been a ‘deluxe’, ‘anniversary’ or ‘expanded’ edition of the album. Where some succeed in bringing interesting forgotten songs and excitable live shows to the ears of loyal fans, some can feel a little unnecessary in bringing something of no real note to the table. Its with this we must consider, is a revamped version of Benefit, prog/flute legends Jethro Tull’s third album, an LP widely met with somewhat average critical and commercial success, really needed?
For fans of the group, the answer will of course be yes. Though it is somewhat overshadowed by the band’s succeeding LP’s Aqualung and Thick As A Brick, the band’s most popular recordings by a mile, many see Benefit as an important milestone in the band’s career in which they veered away from more artsy folk roots, delving into a more hard-hitting and bluesy rock orientated sound that made them popular with prog fans throughout the decade.
The first 10 tracks of the album being the original track listing, its an interesting album to say the least. Opening track With You There To Help Me is a showcase of the writing partnership of lead singer/talented flutist Ian Anderson and then new guitarist Martin Barre, a partnership that has lasted to this day, with fuzz laden guitar licks from Barre complimenting Anderson’s droning vocal and enchanting flute solos. Further songs like the upbeat Inside and Play In Time further show the band’s penchant for experimentation with the latter song including sped up guitar parts.
The extra songs include some nuggets such as the popular singles Teacher, Sweet Dream, 17 and The Witch’s Promise, all remixed into mono and stereo versions for fans to pick their favourite, as LP’s often came in mono in the 60s and 70s. Its this mish mash and different versions of songs that makes the album feel a bit lost from start to finish. Whilst Teacher, with its groovy rhythms and buzzing guitar, is an enjoyable song, hearing six different variations feels a little too repetitive and frankly boring if you’re listening from start to finish. Of course for the hardcore fans, the enjoyment of listening to new versions will be present, its just not a necessary inclusion for any curious new listeners.
It would seem Benefit: The Collectors Edition is not the sort of reissue to really push the boat out and the extra songs probably will be more for avid followers of the band making it a bit of a stretch if you come to the album as a new listener. However, the original album in hindsight is an interesting look in how such an iconic band of the early 70s started to form their sound and vision that would later become their signature trait. For that outlook, getting your hands on Aqualung and Thick As A Brick will most likely ‘benefit’ you further.
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