Benefit was the album on which the Jethro Tull sound solidified around folk music, abandoning blues entirely. Beginning with the opening number, "With You There to Help Me," Anderson adopts his now-familiar, slightly mournful folksinger/sage persona, with a rather sardonic outlook on life and the world; his acoustic guitar carries the melody, joined by Martin Barre's electric instrument for the crescendos. This would be the model for much of the material on Aqualung and especially Thick as a Brick, although the acoustic/electric pairing would be executed more effectively on those albums. Here the acoustic and electric instruments are merged somewhat better than they were on Stand Up (on which it sometimes seemed like Barre's solos were being played in a wholly different venue), and as needed, the electric guitars carry the melodies better than on previous albums. 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. As on Stand Up, the group was still officially a quartet, with future member John Evan (whose John Evan Band had become the nucleus of Jethro Tull two years before) appearing as a guest on keyboards; his classical training proved essential to the expanding of the group's sound on the three albums to come. Benefit was reissued in a remastered edition with bonus tracks at the end of 2001, which greatly improved the clarity of the playing and the richness of the sound; the four additional tracks are "Singing All Day," "Witch's Promise," the elegant, gossamer-textured "Just Trying to Be," and the original U.K. mix of "Teacher." Written and recorded prior to Benefit, they're all lighter in mood than the material from the original album, adding some greater variety but fitting in perfectly on a stylistic level.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder