"Witch's Promise" / "Teacher"
Released: December 1969 (Europe only)
Benefit is the third album by the British rock band Jethro Tull, released in April 1970. It was the first Tull album to include pianist and organist John Evan – though he was not yet a permanent member of the group – and the last to include bass guitarist Glenn Cornick. It was recorded at the same studio of the previous album, but the band experimented with more advanced recording techniques.
Singer Ian Anderson said that Benefit is a much darker album than the 1969 predecessor, Stand Up, owing to the pressures of an extensive U.S. tour and frustration with the music business.
Guitarist Martin Barre said that Benefit was a lot easier to make than previous albums, as the success of Stand Up allowed the musicians more artistic latitude.
Bassist Glenn Cornick stated that the band's intention was to capture a more "live" feeling as "I felt the last one sounded like a group of session musicians performing various songs. It was pretty cold."
Benefit incorporated studio techniques such as reverse recording (flute and piano tracks on "With You There to Help Me"), and manipulating the tape speed (guitar on "Play in Time"). In a 1970 interview Anderson noted that the addition of keyboardist John Evan had changed the band's style: "John has added a new dimension musically and I can write more freely now. In fact anything is possible with him at the keyboard".
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."
The UK and the US release are different: the US version (with flute) of "Teacher" was placed on side two of the album and the track "Alive and Well and Living In" was excluded. In the UK "Teacher" was the B-side of the non-album single "Witch's Promise" and fluteless.
In 2013 The Collector’s Edition of Benefit was released. It contains bonus tracks mixed by Steven Wilson, a disc with mono and stereo mixes of rare and previously unreleased versions of tracks and singles and an audio-only DVD that includes a surround sound mix of the original album. The Collector's Edition also includes a booklet featuring an 8,000-word essay written by Martin Webb, as well as interviews with band members and a selection of photos, some previously unseen.
Critics were generally unimpressed with Benefit upon its release. Rolling Stone reviewer called the album "lame and dumb".Disc and Music Echo was also unimpressed but recognized the band's quality: "This album doesn't advance by such a drastic leap as Stand Up did from This Was. It's more like the Jethro Tull we've seen and heard for the past year. It seems to be a remarkably long album, and shows what an exciting group this is. Exciting because they can have quite long guitar breaks and still retain a very tight and together sound".The Village Voice critic Robert Christgau appreciated the riffs around which all the songs were constructed, but was taken away by the lyrics that he judged hard to recall.
AllMusic and Record Collector's much-later reviews were more positive in accepting the album's style. Bruce Eder stated that: "Most of the songs on Benefit display pleasant, delectably folk-like melodies attached to downbeat, slightly gloomy, but dazzlingly complex lyrics, with Barre's guitar adding enough wattage to keep the hard rock listeners very interested. 'To Cry You a Song', 'Son', and 'For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me' all defined Tull's future sound: Barre's amp cranked up to ten (especially on 'Son'), coming in above Anderson's acoustic strumming, a few unexpected changes in tempo, and Anderson spouting lyrics filled with dense, seemingly profound imagery and statements."Record Collector reviewer, analysing the Collector's Edition of 2013, praised the Steven Wilson remix and wrote: "Benefit forms the perfect bridge between the rolling, tumbling Tull of old and the tightly braided riffs and prickly lyrics presented by Aqualung."