Tuesday, 19 April 2016

"Benefit: A Collector's Edition" by JETHRO TULL (2013 Chrysalis 2CD/1DVD Set – Steve Wilson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Alive And Well And Living In..."

When Tull fans clapped their weary lugs on Steve Wilson's spectacular Remaster of Jethro's legendary 1971 LP "Aqualung" – they promptly sat bolt upright and took notice. Since then there's been a steady stream of Wilson-wonders and now its time to get perpendicular again for "Benefit" - their under-appreciated 3rd album from the spring of 1970. Having lived with this multi-disc baby for some months now – there's no doubt in my mind that this 2013 '2CD/1DVD' overhaul is yet another sonic jewel in a growing crown of audio-restoration achievements. Here are the breathy details...

UK released 28 October 2013 (29 October 2013 in the USA) – "Benefit: A Collector's Edition" by JETHRO TULL on Warner Brothers/Chrysalis 825646413270 (Barcode is the same) is a 2CD + 1DVD Reissue/Remaster featuring 'New 5.1 & Stereo Mixes with Associated Recordings 1969-1970' and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 – The Steven Wilson 2013 Stereo Mixes (65:01 minutes)
1. With You There To Help Me
2. Nothing To Say
3. Alive And Well And Living In
4. Son
5. For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me
6. To Cry For A Song [Side 2]
7. A Time For Everything?
8. Inside
9. Play In Time
10. Sossity: You're A Woman
Tracks 1 to 10 make up their 3rd album "Benefit" – released 20 April 1970 in the USA on Reprise RS 6400 and 1 May 1970 in the UK (delayed from 24 April 1970) on Chrysalis/Island ILPS 9123.

11. Singing All Day (Stereo)
12. Sweet Dream (Stereo)
13. 17 (Stereo)
14. Teacher – (4:58 minutes, UK Single Version, Stereo)
15. Teacher – (4:03 minutes, US Album Version, Stereo)

Disc 2 – Associated Recordings 1969-1970 (58:28 minutes):
1. Singing All Day (Previously Unreleased 1969 Mono Mix)
2. Sweet Dream (Mono Single Mix)
3. 17 (Mono Single Mix)
Tracks 12 and 13 are the A&B-sides of a non-album UK 7" single released 17 October 1969 on Chrysalis/Island WIP 6070
4. Sweet Dream (Previously Unreleased 1969 Stereo Mix intended as a Promo)
5. 17 (Previously Unreleased 1969 Stereo Mix intended as a Promo, B-side of "Sweet Dream")
6. The Witch's Promise – Original 1969 Mono Mix used in Europe and USA - double A-side with "Teacher" (UK used the Stereo version, see Track 9)
7. Teacher - Original 1969 Mono Mix used in Europe and USA – double A-side with "The Witch's Promise" (UK used the Stereo version, see Track 10)
8. Teacher – US Album Version in Mono. Also issued as a double-A side with "The Witch's Promise" in Reprise Records territories
9. The Witch's Promise – original 1969 UK 7" single Stereo Mix issued 16 January 1970 on Chrysalis/Island WIP 6077, double-A with "Teacher"
10. Teacher - original 1969 UK 7" single Stereo Mix issued 16 January 1970 on Chrysalis/Island WIP 6077, Double-A with "The Witch's Promise"
11. Teacher – US Album Version, Stereo. Also issued as a US Promo 7" single with "Witch's Promise" on Reprise 0899
12. Inside (Single Edit, Mono) – Original 1970 UK 7" single Mono Mix/Edit – released May 1970 on Chrysalis/Island WIP 6081 – shorter in length to the LP version
13. Alive And Well And Living In (UK Single Mix, Mono) – released May 1970 on Chrysalis/Island WIP 6081 as the B-side to "Inside". A Stereo variant prepared in 1971 appeared on the 1972 double-album "Living In The Past"
14. A Time For Everything – A Mono Reduction of the 1970 Stereo Album Mix used on the Reprise Records LP - also a B-side to "Inside" in certain Reprise Records territories
15. Benefit AM Radio Spot No. 1 (Mono)
16. Benefit FM Radio Spot No. 2 (Stereo) – issued to US Radio Stations May/June 1970 on Reprise PRO 395

DVD, NTSC, All Regions (0), Aspect Ratio 16.9
Steven Wilson's 2013 Stereo Mixes of "Benefit" and 5 Extra Tracks in DTS and Dolby AC3 5.1 Surround & Stereo 96/24 LPCM (65:06 minutes)
Flat transfers of the Original UK and US LP Master in 96/24 LCPM (59:59 minutes)
Additional Tracks "Sweet Dream", "17" and "The Witch's Promise"
AUDIO Formats: DTS 96/24 5.1 Surround, Dolby AC3 5.1 Surround 96/24 Stereo LPCM

The 42-page booklet is superbly done and properly packed with fan-pleasing info. MARTIN WEBB gives a hugely detailed and deft history of that 'difficult' third album. After a successful tour supporting Led Zeppelin in the USA – Tull popped back to Blighty to record tracks. But the text cites Tull's inner-camp suspicion that singles were breaking the band. And even though the 45s were chart successes - the group felt it was album-buyers who loved them most (and they were proven right). Alongside all the discussion of American Tours and songwriting - you're treated to trade adverts for the LP (advertised as due 24 April 1970 but more likely to have arrived 1 May 1970) and rare Euro picture sleeves for "Sweet Dream" and "Witch's Promise/Teacher" (with or with the prefix 'The' on both tracks). On top of that there's caustic and witty track-by-track discussions by Ian Anderson (Lead Vocals, Flute, Principal Songwriter), Martin Barre (Guitars), Glenn Cornick (Bass) and Clive Bunker (Drums). It even references a 1999 interview with John Evans who was called in to lay down Piano and Organ (credited as John Evan on the LP). There's a 'Sessionography' page cleverly laid out in the text style of a Morgan Studios Tape Box (3 September 1969 to 25 February 1970), a list of US and UK Tour Dates for 1970, Terry Ellis notes on ‘Managing and Touring with Jethro Tull’ and finally STEVEN WILSON explanations on the Remasters in all its transfer complexity.

SOUND: I have to say that Wilson has once again done wonders with a Tull album. I’ve had my A1/B2 matrix LP of ILPS 9123 for way too many decades now and it's sounded brill – but these CD Remasters are glorious – full of warmth, detail and a musicality that I’ve not heard on any Previous CDs or Vinyl pressings. The Stereo imaging is noticeably better – not harsh left and right panning – but more centred. I don’t have a 5.1 system but a mate does and he’s been raving about the 'band in the living room' and sense of 'awe' that the Surround Mixes offer. Niggles – with all that effort and number of pages – it would have been good to include the lyrics this time around (songs like "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me" cry out for it).

As you can see from Disc 2 – Jethro Tull 7" singles in the UK, USA and other territories (Europe and Japan) were released in a plethora of Mono and Stereo Mixes and Edit variants that dizzies the brain. I never knew that the Double-A of "The Witch's Promise" and "Teacher" was issued in Stereo in the UK but only as Mono in European countries - while our American pals had to wait until the 1988 "20 Years Of Jethro Tull" Box Set to get their Mono version. At least this comprehensive issue sorts that out and other odd LP anomalies. The Steve Wilson Stereo Mix of "Teacher" on Disc 1 (Track 14) that runs to 4:58 minutes is a fabulous sonic revelation. Nearly 50 seconds longer than the American Reprise Records album version – US fans are going to love that stretched out guitar and the beautiful remaster. The notes also advise that the mixes for "Singing All Day", "The Witch's Promise" and "Teacher" that appeared on the 1972 "Living In The Past" double-album were actually done in 1971 so that would make the 1999 Mobile Fidelity 2CD versions of them exclusive. They've even fixed 'pitch' mistakes on both versions of "Teacher" faultily recorded on 8-track at the time. And of course those Previously Unreleased versions are amazing finds after all these years.

That wild Flute & Vocals flourish that begins "With You There To Help Me" opens Side 1 with a sinister almost creepy song of longing. The Remaster really accentuates those acoustic guitar strums from Barre. "Nothing To Say" is probably the most Prog song on the album and a musical fave of Martin Barre – sounding bigger now than ever. "Alive And Well And Living In" was the first track I really liked on the album and it's funny to read that in 2013 - Ian Anderson would 'bin it!' according to his typically forthright liner notes. Dustbin or no - the remaster on "Alive And Well And Living In" is wonderfully clear – especially those piano and acoustic battles between John Evans and Martin Barre supported so sweetly by the rhythm section of Glenn Cornick and Clive Bunker. "Son" is a nasty and hard-rocking 'father and son' parable with treated Ian Anderson vocals and at 1:29 minutes suddenly breaks into the most brilliant music/lyrics/in/tandem refrain. The largely Acoustic "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me" is brilliant - my personal poison for this LP. Written in the USA about the Moon Missions while they absorbed musical breakthroughs like the first Crosby, Stills & Nash LP – it has fabulous acoustic interplay between Anderson and Barre – and the Remaster is so damn good.

That Tull signature guitar sound opens Side 2 with "To Cry You A Song" – a song about displacement and being far away (three US tours) – and it continues with the 'little song' that is "A Time For Everything" – another Tull winner that straddles complex and simple in their strange song-structure way. Glenn Cornick rightly espouses his Bass line contribution to the superb "Inside" – but if I'm truthful I prefer the more prominent vocal on the Mono single mix. Funny how they all seem to hate "Play In Time" – a lyrical pun by Anderson on the difficulty of the band's time signatures. But I actually like its riffing guitars and mock Psychedelic sound effects. Even better is awesome audio quality to "Sossity: You're A Woman" – the album's accomplished finisher. Overall the whole LP transfer is a rip-roaring success to my ears...

Jethro Tull would go global in 1971 with "Aqualung" and rightly so. And it has to be truthfully said that Benefit's illustrious follow up is a better crop of songs and a more coherent LP in every way. But this fabulous 2013 reissue of 1970's "Benefit" should surely mean that this forgotten bow in Tull's arsenal of strings should be reappraised. Well done to all involved...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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