DOKKEN

"Unchain the Night" DVD (Rhino; 2007)

Reviewed by Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I’ve always been a sucker for Dokken, even when thrash, death metal and punk ruled my world (and, actually, they still do) particularly because Dokken is a link to my teenaged years and my daydreams of escaping the east coast to the alluring partyland of mid-eighties Los Angeles.  I always come back to Dokken if not once a month, every other month, so it was a delight to review this DVD re-issue of Dokken’s platinum-selling video Unchain the Night.

You get the original cut featuring Dokken’s earlier videos that are pretty funny to look at two decades later for their cheese factor, but it’s a charming brand of cheese that you had to be a part of the original metal scene to fully appreciate.  I think even Don Dokken and Mick Brown—who give loads of recent testimonials as bonus footage on this DVD—will tell you that the videos they cut were mostly ridiculous, particularly when you see George Lynch tap his ensnared bandmates with his guitar to set them free in the “Breaking the Chains” video or the overt sexuality of the band as slaves driving cargo into a tunnel beneath a straddled woman in the “Into the Fire” video, but Christ, we wouldn’t have it any other way, silly or not!

Particularly memorable is Dokken with their gear on a flatbed and coasting all around L.A. in the “It’s Not Love” video or the classic rain spatters throughout the irresistible “In My Dreams.”  Picture the original Headbangers Ball when Dokken was a regular mainstay, or as Don Dokken attests on the interview section, they could be found on the hour in regular MTV rotation. It’s amazing that footage that was a routine part of life in the eighties now looks archaic and sentimental in 2007.  MTV discards its hand picks as quickly as they choose them, which is what happened to Dokken amongst many other hard rock acts of the eighties that suffered the early-nineties kill-off.

The 2006 interview footage with Don Dokken and Mick Brown is priceless.  Brown, who is a laugh a minute, still lives up to his “Wild” moniker and the duo peel off hilarious anecdotes about the eighties, touring and making the videos, which include the Back for the Attack videos now added to this compilation:  “Dream Warriors,” “Heaven Sent” and “Burning Like a Flame,” along with the underrated swan song “Walk Away” from Beast from the East, which marks the finality of the original lineup.  It is further underscored by Don Dokken’s validation of the feud between himself and George Lynch, so much that he admits to not originally wanting Lynch in the band.  Interesting to conceive what might’ve been if Lynch had never been in Dokken.  Would Tooth and Nail be the classic that it is without him?  Would Elektra have given Under Lock and Key the same mainstream opportunity it did?  Who knows, it’s all hearsay at this point, but the final summation is that Dokken in the eighties were a formidable quartet who I recall storming the 1988 Monsters of Rock, but according to Jeff Pilson they were all going through the motions at that point, en route to inevitable separation.  It’s one of the real dramas of the eighties metal scene and to reflect upon it probably hurts the fans more than the band’s constituents, which is a shame.

For more information visit http://www.dokken.net.  

"Hell To Pay" (Sanctuary; 2004)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I go way, way, way back with Dokken. I remember hearing "Breaking The Chains" for the first time as a teenager and instantly knew that I liked what I heard. I followed the band for years, anticipating each new release like a kid who awaits Christmas morning. Fast forward a number of years and it is easy for me to say that I liked the experimental "Shadowlife" more than most Dokken faithful and I'm not apologizing for it. Overall, I found "Erase The Slate" a bit disappointing even if closer to the band's classic, signature sound. However, I never got around to buying or listening to "Long Way Home" once I'd read that it was basically a Don Dokken solo record.

Now I find myself reviewing the band's newest effort, "Hell To Pay." The new album only features two members of the classic Dokken line-up: Don Dokken, of course, on vocals and Mick Brown on drums. Barry Sparks is certainly a versatile bassist and I was not surprised to see him joining the Dokken ranks. I'm not too familiar with Jon Levin (the band's lawyer/legal eagle), but I understand he's one of the few guitarists in the world that truly evokes the classic Dokken/George Lynch style.

I was fairly impressed by "Hell To Pay" upon the first complete spin. Oddly enough, I focused on the band's performances more than anything else – it wasn't planned, it just happened. Don Dokken's vocal style has matured since the '80s, but his sound here doesn't deviate too much from "Erase The Slate." This album proves to me that I prefer the latter era Dokken vocal style rather than the one found on the classic albums from the '80s. Jon Levin does sound like George Lynch albeit in a more subdued way. Barry Sparks provided just what I expected – a dose of warm bass lines that seems perfectly suited for this classic Dokken sounding record. Mick Brown's drumming has been incredibly consistent from the early '80s through the present.

Subsequent spins of "Hell To Pay" have resulted in the generally warm glow that comes with the familiarity of listening to something that has been a part of more than half my life. I noticed after the third or fourth spin that "Hell To Pay" didn't rock as hard as I wanted it to, but it wasn't a total slouch either. That's not necessarily a bad point – it is an observation that I believe few fans of the band would find hard to argue with. Tracks like the mid-paced rocker "Prozac Nation" and the subdued "I Surrender" prove to be the standouts on "Hell To Pay."

When a band reaches this particular veteran stage of their career it's all to easy to say that only die hard fans of the band will like what the artist has to offer twenty years or so into their musical ruminations. But I feel that any fan of the melodic hard rock sound will find something to truly appreciate on Dokken's "Hell To Pay."

"Hell To Pay" was produced by Don Dokken.

Dokken: Don Dokken on vocals, Jon Levin on guitars, Barry Sparks on bass, and Mick Brown on drums and keyboards. Sparks and Brown provide solid backing vocals throughout the album. Veteran vocalist Kelly Keeling contributes his song-writing skills on three tracks.

For more information visit http://www.dokken.net.  

"Erase the Slate" (CMC International; 1999)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Erase the Slate" marks Dokken's first recording with former Alice Cooper guitarist Reb Beach taking the place of former Dokken guitarist George Lynch. While Lynch has gone on to form a new, metal/rap band, Dokken has done exactly what Dokken should have done - gone back to their roots.

Infused with a new energy and freshness courtesy of Beach's guitar wizardry, Dokken's "Erase the Slate" couldn't be better titled. The new CD is a fresh start for a band whose previous releases weren't bad (okay, there was that unplugged thing) but weren't great either. "Erase the Slate" is a better album that those previous albums for a number of reasons: songwriting, musical performance and an improved use of the unique vocal talents of Don Dokken. Dokken shines on "Erase the Slate," putting his one-of-a-kind rock voices back to work. When you hear a song from "Erase the Slate" you'll know it's Don Dokken singing, unlike the last couple of Dokken records where Dokken's voice seemed more typical.

It's hard to pick highlights from this terrific CD, but the title track has got to be one, as does "Maddest Hatter" and the eerie "Drown." If there is a misstep here - and we say if - it is in the form of the cover version of Nilsson's "One" that somehow seems out of place.

"Erase the Slate" is a return to the solid rock'n'roll that brought Dokken to the limelight in the first place. Fans of the band's best music won't be disappointed with this new release.

Dokken is: Don Dokken, lead vocals; Jeff Pilson, bass, vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, mellotron, keyboards; Mick Brown, drums, percussion, vocals; Reb Beach, guitar.

For more information, please visit the band's website at http://www.dokken.net.

"Erase the Slate" (CMC International; 1999)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I feared the post-Lynch Dokken was going to be a shell of its former self. I pitied the poor soul who was going to take over the six-string slot. When I heard that Reb Beach was going to handle the guitar duties I was actually intrigued - I was never a big Reb Beach fan, yet this seemed a logical and sensible choice.

In reality the Reb Beach era of Dokken isn't bad at all, in fact it's pretty good. I daresay "Erase The Slate" is more solid effort than Dokken's previous two discs ("Dysfunctional" and "Shadowlife"). On "Erase The Slate" Dokken have regained their tried-and-true form without overplaying the '80s style.

I thought the first single "Maddest Hatter" was a poor choice to get the word out about new Dokken material. Sure it's made for radio, but it lacks the vibrancy of the first two cuts (the title track and "Change The World"). There are plenty of highlights: the desperation in "Drown" is frightening to hear; the heartfelt emotion on the ballad "Who Believes" is very honest and endearing; "Haunted Lullabye" proves once again that Dokken can simplify and rock out.

Although Reb Beach is no threat to the work that George Lynch provided in the early days of Dokken, he does a good job keeping the Dokken sound in check yet with his own personal flourishes. Don Dokken's voice is as strong as ever and there are quite a few times the vocals throughout the disc reminded me of his performance on "Back For The Attack." Jeff Pilson has really been quite a talent for the band as his versatile skills are employed with tact. Wild Mick Brown is his usual self and we're all thankful.

"Erase The Slate" contains a couple of low spots. "One," a cover of the original Three Dog Night tune, is a curious addition to the disc; it merely exists to allow Don Dokken an opportunity to showcase his vocal skills which appear to be improving with age. Also, when Wild Mick Brown takes the lead vocal on "Crazy Mary Goes Round" the band is reduced to sounding like second-rate KISS. 

Dokken fans are sure to appreciate "Erase The Slate"; those that listened to Dokken to simply hear George Lynch may not be so thrilled by "Erase The Slate."

Dokken is Don Dokken on vocals, Jeff Pilson on bass (and other various instruments), Wild Mick Brown on drums, and Reb Beach on guitar. 

For more information check out http://www.dokken.net to catch up on old times.

"Erase the Slate" (CMC International; 1999)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

Dokken has been through so many changes. Hair, guitar players, bass players. But one thing seems to remain the same and that's great music. 

Dokken has always had ferocious guitar playing. George Lynch was the axe man cometh to rival Eddie Van Halen, but did he? That's a matter of opinion. "Erase the Slate" finds Dokken with guitarist Reb Beach, who used to play with Winger. Reb has a recognizable style. He is fast and melodic. He can also crunch some of the nastiest rhythms and this CD is no exception. It's Dokken, just a little different than you might remember and, since this was a one album deal, I think Reb put his best foot forward  ... onto the pedal of distortion.

Although the songwriting is not that great, "Erase the Slate" is one of a kind with Reb on guitar. He filled his obligation well. Wild Mick Brown tries his hand at vocals on “Crazy Mary Goes Round” and he doesn't have a bad voice, so it's okay to hear him sing.

The disc starts with “Erase The Slate” and a stripped down guitar and it's screaming with each lick. Reb smokes the amps. If there was any question that Reb can play as well as Lynch, I'd say it's put to rest here. He can. I dare you to compare.

The song “Maddest Hatter” is about Alice in Wonderland. What else? (Here's some trivia for you: Where did the term "mad hatter" originate? Back in the day, hat makers would put mercury in the brim of hats and it would seep into the person's brain and drive them insane).

There's also a cover of a Three Dog Night song. Who's Three Dog Night? There were way before my time. Don Dokken probably liked this song so he wanted to cover it. You can't really spice it up without ruining it so they just play it with a little more sauce than the original. Reb does have a sweet little solo here.

There is also a hidden track here for those who like to find those things. Right after "In Your Honor" finishes, wait a few seconds and some jamming from Reb starts up. I guess he didn't get it all out of his system but sadly, a minute and sixteen seconds is all you get. 

The best “rocking with Dokken” tracks here are “Erase The Slate,” “Drown,” “Shattered,” and “Who Believes.”

Dokken: Don Dokken - lead vocals; Jeff Pilson – bass, vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, mellotron, keyboards; Mick Brown – drums, percussion, vocals; Reb Beach – guitar.

For more information visit http://www.dokken.net


"The Very Best of Dokken" (Elektra; 1999)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

I know that "Best Of" and "Greatest Hits" packages are easy to review and this disc is no different but I'll try to give you some insight into the song selection. This disc is numbered with sixteen tracks and they are listed in chronological order to present a timeline from "Breaking the Chains" (1983) to "Dysfunctional" (1995).

There is one instrumental enclosed, "Mr. Scary," and it gives a taste of what George Lynch would later play on his solo outings. There is also the song from the movie "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" titled "Dream Warriors." In my opinion, it was way better than the movie. There is also a song from Don Dokken's solo disc titled "Mirror Mirror." It features John Norum from the band Europe on guitar.

Chances are if you're a Dokken fan then you own most of the songs this disc features, the only exception would be Don Dokken's debut solo song "Mirror Mirror," and it’s a great track and well placed for this "The Very Best of Dokken."

For more information visit http://www.dokken.net

"One Night Live" (CMC International; 1996)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I have a love/hate relationship with live recordings as they tend to fall into one of two categories: well mixed or poorly mixed. "One Night Live" definitely falls into the latter category. Maybe this one-off acoustic performance of classic Dokken material (as well as a few select cover songs) and one Lynch solo-era instrumental wasn't meant to be recorded in the first place as it doesn't sound like much care went into it.

Overall, most of the songs are played at pace much slower than the originals - all the more reason to keep the music uncluttered and straight-forward. Some of the songs are given a few twists that are worth hearing ("Unchain The Night" and "Tooth And Nail" are good examples) and makes the CD more than just a complete throwaway. The newer tunes from the then just released "Dysfunctional" CD remain true to their original form. The emotive "Nothing Left To Say" really shines in the acoustic format although the song was primarily recorded that way the first time.

Lynch breaks out the electric guitar in order to make the solos (almost) exactly like the originals. I often wonder if Lynch had just stayed on the acoustic what kind of leads he would have devised for these recordings. Don Dokken's voice shines as it usually does - I've always considered him to be a vastly underrated vocalist even given the genre's general lack of respect. Dokken's rich timbre conveys emotion better than nearly every singer of the '80s pop-metal scene. Pilson's versatility helps the proceedings very nicely as he adds piano and acoustic guitar to his normal bass duties. Pilson even takes the reins with lead vocals on the classic "Just Got Lucky" which is a bit startling to hear at first as I'm so used to Don Dokken's voice on the tune. Wild Mick Brown does a competent job considering his first option is bash away on the drum kit - his restrain here is not only welcome, but necessary.

At the very least you get the classic line-up of Don Dokken, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson, and Wild Mick Brown on "One Night Live" because it could have been worse if other hired guns were manning the slots.

"One Night Live" is for die-hard Dokken fans only.

"One Night Live" was produced by Dokken and Wyn Davis.

Dokken is Don Dokken on vocals, George Lynch on guitar, Jeff Pilson on bass (and other various instruments), and Wild Mick Brown on drums.

For more information visit http://www.dokken.net

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright ©2011 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02 May 2017 21:24:56 -0400.