"Benefit" became Tull's first million-seller,
barely missing the Top Ten charts in the U.S. The album features a "harder,
slightly darker feel" (Ian's words) than Tull's earlier works
and clear hints of cynicism cresting with the following album: "Aqualung."
Group leader Ian Anderson begin experimenting with production techniques, including the famed "backwards-played" flute on "With You There to Help Me" which would become a concert joke as Ian turned his back to the audience to play the opening notes. This track, and others, reflect Ian's budding romance with a Chrysalis secretary who would become Ian's first wife. The experimentation, however, gives the album a very late 60's/early 70's feel which may sound dated and unapproachable to the modern rock ear. Yet, many Tull fans consider it among the band's greatest works. Elsewhere, "Son" continues Ian's parental relations theme from "Stand Up."
Mostly recorded in December 1969 and January 1970, "Benefit" was the bands first album to feature keyboards played by the bands old school chum John Evan. Evan completed the third Tull line-up when he joined Anderson, Barre, Bunker, and Cornick. John Evan joined on a temporary basis for an eight month tour and stayed for over 10 years! John's classical training and stage presence would be central to Tull's 1970's personna.
During the "Benefit" tour, Tull headlined some of the biggest concert halls in the U.S. However, the musicians' diverse personalities and harsh schedules were not meshing. After the tour finished in December 1970, Glenn Cornick left to start his own band, 'Wild Turkey."
Three songs became noteworthy, not necessarily for their quality. "To Cry You a Song," with the lyrics "flying so high" helped fuel the myth that Anderson was a serious druggie. In reality, Anderson never did drugs and some critics felt his music developed a bitterness towards the prevailing youth culture.
"Teacher," became a fan favorite in the U.S. though the band felt it was a throwaway song and Ian wrote it as a B-side. Ian, to date, professes distaste for this tune reflecting disillusionment with formal education, a theme arising in future songwriting as well. The U.K. version on the remastered copy is a very different arrangement with far less flute. The flute was added to the U.S. release as the record company felt Tull needed a pop single featuring the flute.
"Play in Time" was a direct message
to critics and supporters preferring Tull's earlier, abandoned blues-orientated
approach ("blues were my favourite colour until I looked 'round
and found another song that I felt like singing") and would be
the first in a series of tunes over the years expressing Ian's indifference
to critical opinion.