REVIEW: DOKKEN – “The Lost Songs: 1978-1981”
Dawn 'Mama Love' Brown
One of the things that we, as humans, love to do is reminisce about “back in the day”. There’s a subsection of society known as Generation-X. Those of us born between 1965 and 1980 and primarily grew up during the ‘70s and ‘80s. As an ‘80s kid, some of our fondest memories include watching ridiculous glam and hair metal bands come and go. Some of them even gave us entertainment via their backstage antics or the animosity between band members.
One band which had its fair share of animosity between members was Dokken, a moderately successful ‘80s band consisting then of Don Dokken (vocals), George Lynch (guitar), Mick Brown (drums) and Juan Crucier (bass). Jeff Pilson replaced Crucier in 1983 when Crucier left to become a member of the ‘80s glam band, Ratt. During their time actively making music, Dokken was able to garner some success and critical praise for songs that have absolutely made their mark on music history. “Breaking the Chains”, “Into the Fire”, “Alone Again”, “Dream Warriors”, these are some iconic songs that will live on as long as Gen-Xers still exist.
Rumors were circulating in 2016 regarding new music coming from the original line-up which did yield a single song on their live album released in 2018. However, a full-length offering never came to fruition which dates any new music from Dokken back to 2012 with the release of ‘Broken Bones’. So, naturally, Don has now decided to keep himself relevant by releasing music that was written prior to the release of their first record in 1981, ‘The Lost Songs: 1978-1981’. While it is interesting to hear some of the progression of writing from Dokken’s early days, most of these songs were written before Dokken’s and Lynch’s education in writing catchy tunes took place. Don’s vocals on these early songs lack the strength and confidence he would develop later in his career.
However, you can distinctly hear the root of Dokken’s sound in this material. There are a few decent tracks but, moreover, this collection is a time capsule containing the relatively mediocre renderings of an inexperienced glam metal band. As previously mentioned, Dokken’s vocals are strangely flat and mushy, song arrangements are equally flat and just don’t pack a punch. The only one of these songs that actually made it onto a Dokken album is “Felony” which appears on their debut studio album, ‘Breaking the Chains’ from 1981. The remainder of the album is what you might expect from a fledgling quartet writing trying to write the next arena anthem or a power ballad.
As far as individual songs, “Step Into the Light” has a straightforward and vaguely familiar riff that is very Dokken-Esque but Don’s vocals are subdued and almost sound slurred and the chorus seems uninspired. But Lynch’s solo guitar work helps this song tremendously. “Day After Day” is definitely the attempt at the aforementioned feel-good power ballad. Other than some fair harmonies, this song is the musical equivalent of an episode of Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting. Following is “Rainbows” which doesn’t do a very good job of waking you up after the previous snoozefest. “Back in the Streets” picks up the pace a little and shows more of Dokken’s signature vocal style. “Hit and Run” and “Broken Heart” had to have been recorded in someone’s garage. The sound quality is alarming. “Liar” is a live recording with surprisingly good sound quality and is probably one of the better songs on this offering. “Prisoner” is also a live recording clocking in at over 6 minutes. Not being a huge fan of live recordings, this song just feels like it goes on forever. A shorter duration would have been much more effective.
This album is more miss than hit. For a die-hard, over-the-top, rabid Dokken fan, this will be a cool addition to their repertoire as it documents those initial attempts the band took in honing their craft. Otherwise, this record is a novelty at best and could be perceived as merely another endeavor by Don Dokken to keep his name relevant to those of us who still remember him.