Benefit was the third album issued by Jethro Tull. Released during the spring of 1970, it would prove to be a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and earn the group a gold record award for sales in The United States.
For many casual fans, this is a forgotten album in their vast catalog as it was the predecessor to their classic Aqualung. In many ways it was the set-up for a lot of what would follow. They moved in a more progressive rock direction as flutist/singer Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre became comfortable with one another. The sound had a grander vision as more orchestration is apparent and John Evan, who may not have yet been a full group member, provided piano and organ support which flushed out and enhanced the music. Also of note are the bass lines of Glenn Cornick who would leave the group after this release.
“With You There To Help Me” is a complex track as the opening flute sound and harmonies eventually give way to the guitars and a full rock attack. “Inside” goes in a different direction as it has a Renaissance flavor which would be explored more fully on such albums as Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses.
Ian Anderson would show his eclectic side with two compositions. Michael Collins was the astronaut who circled the moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed and walked on its surface. I’m still not sure if “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me” is a rant against the money spent in getting to the moon, Anderson’s own disappointment at not going to the moon himself, or some other hidden meaning. Whatever the case, it is one of those humorous and creative tracks which he was so good at creating. “To Cry You A Song” emphasizes imagery over lyrical content that just reaches out and grabs your attention.
Just about every Jethro Tull album contains a track which is all about Ian Anderson’s flute and here it is the song “Teacher.” His expertise continued to improve as time passed, but this track catches him near the top of his game.
If Benefit suffers from anything it is the lack of one big memorable song. It was a collection of good songs which collectively formed a very good album. If you want to explore the music of Jethro Tull, this album is a good place to start before moving on to some of their classic releases.