Unreleased studio tracks, bonus acoustic takes, and a live concert with just about the perfect setlist for any self-respecting Dokken fan? You gotta jump at the chance to fill yer ears with that, no? When Sentinel Daily editor Scott Adams suggested I take this new Dokken live album for a spin I nearly bit his hand off down the email line, if you see what I mean… Don Dokken? George Lynch? Jeff Pilson? ‘Mad’ Mick Brown? Back, as it were, for the attack? I’m In!
Sadly the idea is much, much dreamier than the reality. The new track, which opens the album and is called It’s Another Day, slides past in a dreary cloud of weak vocals and uninspired riffs.
Surely the live segment will be better.
And of course, musically it is, largely. Kiss of Death is one of the all time great metal set openers, and as George Lynch unfurls that killer opening riff your pulse will doubtless start racing just like mine. But then Don opens his word hole…
Nobody’s expecting singers to sound just like they did thirty years ago – and, if we’re being honest, Don had a few off nights even in his heyday – but really if bands are going to release material at full price into the wild you do at least expect some degree of effort to at least look like it’s being put in. Don moans and mumbles through the opening track, phrasing awry and key never more than approximate; Bassist Pilson adds some spirited backing vocals to lift his frontman out of trouble but overall it’s pretty depressing.
Unchain the Night fares better, the indestructible melody of the chorus carrying the song through, and the heavier, more straightforward When Heaven Comes Down also holds its own. Breaking the Chains also sounds great musically, with George Lynch riffing up a storm and Mick Brown driving solidly from the back.
Dokken’s voice picks up a bit for an energised take on Into the Fire, with Lynch letting a great solo fly; Things are looking up. But then Don gets the vocal shakes on Dream Warriors, again requiring the backing vocals to dig him out of a hole. Tooth and Nail, usually such a great live anthem, just sounds tired and lifeless. Apart from the solo, that is. That will transport you back to the late eighties and get the hairs on the back of your neck standing to rapturous attention. It’s the highlight of the whole album, and then some.
It’s Not Love and In My Dreams end the live segment of the release, the former spirited and perky, the latter risking an a capella intro and coming through just about unscathed; the brace of acoustic tracks – Heaven Sent and Will the Sun Rise – are actually rather good, especially Heaven Sent which has a real classic hair metal ‘cowboy’ vibe, both songs going some way to restore a little faith in the whole enterprise.
You can understand why bands spend time in the studio ‘touching up’ live recordings, and in many ways it’s commendable that Dokken have been brave enough to put this record out as is. But at times, removed from the excitement and noise of being there, Don’s voice sounds exposed and frail, and not at all pleasant to listen to. I hate writing this, as I’ve loved the band for thirty years and more; however the facts remain that the man simply struggles to replicate his studio vocals in the live arena these days, and that’s gonna cast a pall over the listening pleasure of anybody buying this album. Caveat emptor!