John Deen and the Trakk
Band members Related acts
line up 1
- John Deen -- vocals
- Dave --
- Nelson --
- Keith --
- Allan --
- Johnny Deen and the Crestas
- Johnny Deen and the Deacons
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Beat 69
Country/State: UK / Germany
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: German pressing
Catalog ID: 5684
I'll readily admit that this album isn't anything exceptional; in fact much of the set is quite lame. That said it has a couple of entertaining moments and from the tidbits I can dig up, Deen had an interesting musical history.
I've seen different references showing him as being from Derby, Manchester, Tamworth (which appears to be the middle of England) and from Scotland. Take your pick. His first band - Johnny Deen and the Crestas seems to have been formed in the early 1960s and played on the local club circuit. There's one online remembrance that describes them as: "a really top class local group Johnny Dean and the Crestas, they were fantastic. Their first number was Dance On (Shadows) the Hank Marvin look alike on lead guitar, played a Fender Stratocaster. Amplifiers were Vox AC 30s for the lead and rhythm, a Vox T60 for the bass and they had girl backing singers."
By the mid-1960s Deen had changed backing bands and was working under the moniker Johnny Deen and the Deacons (which included future Fleur De Lys, Spencer Davis Group, and Shotgun Express guitarist Phil Sawyer). Apparently frustrated by their lack of success in the UK, they flew to Germany, finding work in Hamburg's infamous Reeperbahn club scene where they became part of the British expatriate community. 1966 saw them score a one-short contract with the small local Hit House label which promptly released their first German 45:
- 'It's Allright' (sic) b/w 'Shotgun' (Hit House catalog number 52 801)
While the single didn't do a great deal commercially, it was enough to attract the attention of CBS Records which signed Deen releasing a pair of 45s credited to John Deen and the Trakk:
- 1968's 'Gin House Blues' b/w 'Man' (CBS catalog number 3668)
- 1969's 'Hey Bulldog' b/w 'All Together Now' (CBS 4073)
Again, neither single did much commercially and CBS promptly dropped the group. Luckily for the group, the German bargain label Europa (imagine a Pickwick product), picked up Deen, financing 1969's "Beat 69". Credited to John Deen and the Trakk, this was clearly a quickie release. The liner notes by Wolfgang Schmidt admitted as much: "Three long days we worked in the studio producing this LP." Wow !!! A whole 72 hours ... While there were no writing or performance credits (the backing band was simply identified as Allan, Dave, Keith, and Nelson), the liner notes indicated the 14 tracks were all Deen originals. So what's this throwaway set sound like? Namesake Deen had a nice voice that sounded like a strange cross between Tom Jones and Stevie Winwood (doubt the comparison then check out Traffic wannabe performance on 'Gotta Get Way'). His gruff, rugged delivery saved most of the material, including some of the lamer, pop-oriented tracks, giving it a likeable blues-rock sheen. The big problem with the set is that it sounded a couple of years out of fashion. By 1969 popular tastes had changed well beyond beat, mod, and Stax, yet tracks like 'I'll Show You' and 'High Phen' had a distinctive mid-1960s feel. Personally I love that era, but others maybe not so much ... Also, worth mentioning, from a purely technical perspective the set was surprisingly good, standing as one of those period pieces that sounds great with a quality paid of headphones (track fading, effects, etc.).
As mentioned above, Deen and company were certainly talented enough. Their downfall seems to have been an issue of timing. Had this been recorded two, or three years earlier, it could have been a major success. Instead it was greeted with commercial indifference and apparently never even saw a UK, or US release. Shame since it's actually quite good. Obviously a band I'd like to know more about !
Another mystery - why would anyone bother to reissue an obscurity like this? The small Red Fox Records label saw some reason for the project, releasing the collection in 2005 (Red Fox catalog number RF653).
69" track listing:
1.) I'll Show You (John Deen) - 3:38 rating: **** stars
Other than the fact it was virtually a note-for-note copy of Jr. Walker's 'Shotgun', the album got off to a rousing start with 'I'll Show You'. Certainly not what you'd expect from this geeky lookin' group of wannabe mods and the multi-part harmony vocals ('dance, dance, dance') were hysterical.
2.) Gotta Get Away (John Deen) - 2:55 rating: **** stars
Deen actually had a really interesting voice. Deep and ragged he was gifted with one of those soulful voices that most white guys can only dream about. On 'Gotta Get Way' he seemingly pulled out his best Stevie Winwood/early Traffic imitation. Guess what? Great track with a fantastic bass pattern.
3.) Standing Alone (John Deen) - 2:44 rating: ** stars
The supper club ballad 'Standing Alone' was the first disappointment. Imagine Tom Jones after he'd swallowed a bathtub full of downers and you'd get a feel for this one. On the other hand the guitar accompaniment wasn't bad.
4.) High Phen (instrumental) (John Deen) - 1:34 rating: *** stars
The instrumental 'High Phen' offered up a nice slice of Booker T & the MGs styled Stax soul. Nice slashing Steve Cropper-styled guitar too boot ! The title's kind of a mystery to me ... hyphen?
5.) Your Whole Life Through (John Deen) - 2:25 rating: *** stars
The mid tempo rocker 'Your Whole Life Through' had a nice mid-1960s mod feel to it. Quite commercial and had it been released two or three years earlier it might have been a hit.
6.) Happy Blues (John Deen) - 2:33 rating: ** stars
If it was intended to show Deen and company could be as ploddingly dull as John Mayall, then the straightforward blues number 'Happy Blues' worked like a charm zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
7.) To Make It (John Deen) - 2:05 rating: **** stars
'To Make It' found the band taking a stab at organ-propelled psych. Once again, the results were a year, or two behind popular tastes, but still surprisingly impressive.
'King and Queen' was an okay slice of soul - not the best, or worst track on the album.
2.) I Met a Girl Last Night (John Deen) - 1:50 rating: ** stars
'I Met a Girl Last Night' could have been a decent pop effort, but never really found a hook or melody. The good news is that it was also an extremely short track.
3.) Looking Down On My Friends (John Deen) - 1:17 rating: ** stars
'Looking Down On My Friends' suffered from the same shortcomings, sounding like an unfinished track. Could've been a really good effort.
4.) I Found Out (John Deen) - 3:46 rating: *** stars
The first time I heard 'I Found Out' I mistook it for a Dennis Yost and the Classics IV effort. Pretty, if slightly MOR-ish ballad that was two or three years behind popular tastes. Nice organ solo ...
5.) Letter (John Deen) - 3:23 rating: ** stars
I originally wasn't very impressed by 'Letter', but after hearing it a couple of times I have to admit that it's waltzy feel has a certain appeal.
6.) Who Knows (John Deen) - 3:12 rating: **** stars
The strangest song on the album, 'Who Knows' started out sounding like an in-studio castoff demo, but gradually became an out-and-out impressive slice of psychedelia. Perhaps the most interesting song on the whole album.
7.) Kavind (John Deen) - 3:10 rating: **** stars
Another title that didn't make much sense to me, 'Kavind' offered up a mid tempo rocker with some acid-soaked influences that grew on me the more I heard it.
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