Album review: JETHRO TULL – Benefit (A Collector’s Edition)

Jethro Tull - Benefit

EMI [Release date 28.10.13]

‘Collector’s Edition’ is about right.  If, like me, you owned the vinyl, upgraded to CD, and then invested in the 2001 remaster (compete with 4 bonus tracks), then you’ll need to seriously question whether the latest, Anderson approved, Steven Wilson rummage through the Tull archives merits yet another dip into the wallet.

Benefit may not be the first album most think of in connection with Tull, but their 1970 release was a seminal moment marking the band’s departure from their blues roots and their transformation into a fully-fledged progressive rock band.  It’s an album well deserving of the ‘classic album’ tag and one that everyone should own.

But this version is arguably only for the anally retentive.  The first disc, which will probably be of most interest is the new Steven Wilson remix of the album’s 10 original tracks and 5 bonus tracks (including both the U.K. and U.S. stereo versions of Teacher).  And yes, it sounds as fresh as a daisy, but the 2001 remaster wasn’t a bad effort either and the only ‘over and above’ material is Sweet Dream and 17 – neither of which are nail on essentials (and both of which featured on the Stand Up remaster).

From there, things begin to get a bit silly on Disc 2 which includes newly remastered versions of rare tracks and singles recorded around the same time such as Sweet Dream in both stereo and mono.  So over the course of the first two discs, you get, for example, six different versions of Teacher – the UK and US 2013 remixes, the UK and US mono remasters, and the UK and US 2013 remasters.  Great track, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing!

And the DVD just supersizes what has gone before with a whopping 58 tracks including the album and bonus tracks in 5.1 surround sound, the UK and US versions of the album (the American release was sequenced differently and Teacher replaced Alive and Well and Living In.  Clever yes, but the album was never conceived in anything other than stereo, and if you ask me 5.1 has about as much future as quadrophonic.

So, unless you’re a 5.1 buff, for most the 2001 remaster will be perfectly adequate (I completely failed a blind ‘spot the difference’ test), but the Steven Wilson badging will no doubt prove too much of a temptation for diehards to resist.  Shrewd man, that Ian Anderson.  For me, the highlight was the hilariously un-politically correct Reprise FM radio ad.  Marvellous stuff.  ****

Review by Pete Whalley

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