It is one of the unwritten laws of record collecting that some of the most passionately sought LPs are often among the most disappointing albums ever made, the kind of things that you would never even give houseroom to, if they weren't essential to the collection. Among connoisseurs of the British Vertigo label, an avid army who've been known to offer limbs in exchange for certain objects of high-priced desire, Ben's eponymous debut album certainly falls into that sordid category. Cut wholly in the jazz-rock shadow of labelmates Nucleus, Ben offers a shade over 38 minutes worth of aimless noodling, interspersed with flashes of soulless riffing, and crowned by drummer David Sheen's dry, dull (but mercifully underemployed) vocal. Musically, it's clear that Ben know their stuff -- technicians might well sit back and marvel at the band's actual playing abilities. But the nearly side-long suite "The Influence" simply wanders along without ever justifying the presence of the seven sub-movements that divide it up, while side two's opening, "Christmas Execution," never lives up to what is, after all, an extremely intriguing title, even if it does sound a bit Christmassy in places. Reissues on Repertoire in 1991 and Akarma in 2003 have done much to discourage all but the most avid vinyl fetishists from seeking out the original swirl-label version of this album. But, even at a reasonable price, it remains a distinctly disappointing release.
by Dave Thompson