August 28th marked the release of a retrospective of Don Dokken’s journey from a struggling solo artist to a budding arena rock front man in his pre-Dokken days. Dokken The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 is a collection of various demos Dokken had recorded both over the course of the four years preceding the original European release of Dokken’s debut album Breaking The Chains. The material contained on this collection is a mix of songs recorded in The United States and the few years he spent in Germany honing his craft.
This offering is a mixed bag of material from different times and locations, and one can only presume, different states of mind as well. Because of this, you are treated to a creative evolution, sonically playing itself out in front of your very ears. The quality of the audio can be a bit rough on some of the tracks, but that is the state in which they were discovered, Dokken stated recently regarding this, “With the masters we had, I could have made some of the songs more punchy and more Hi-Fi, but it didn’t fit the other songs. All I could do was EQ those and make it sound better.” This caused a change of direction for Dokken, explaining “I actually got in the mindset of, ‘I’m not going to make these over the top, I’m going to make them a little bit Low-Fi.'”
The opening track, Step Into The Light is probably one of the most characteristic representations of what Dokken would become included on the record. Its crunchy riff, and catchy harmonized vocals really provide a glimpse into the type of powerhouse tunes that would become a hallmark of the Dokken sound. We’re Going Wrong, the second track, is a late 70’s style rocker, with a riff in the same vein of UFO’s Hot n’ Ready. Dokken’s signature falsetto vocals lead you through this one from start to finish.
The selections bring the listener back down a little for the ensuing two numbers. Day After Day is an enchanting ballad whose fabric is woven with vocal harmonies and a flamenco style guitar. Showing the softer side of Dokken’s songwriting, it plays nicely as a lead in to the next tune. Rainbows is a delicate tour de force, arranged wonderfully with haunting lyrics and recurring guitar escalations leading into the choruses. This one is another example of diverse and powerful band Dokken would become.
The middle of this record consists of three pieces that show the sheer rocking influence with the first of these being Felony, which would appear later on Breaking The Chains in a slightly different guise. This particular rendition is faster and somewhat less thought out than the version that would appear on the debut. Felony gives way to No Answer and its grooving riff and more signature melodic singing from Dokken. Rounding out this fragment of the larger whole is Back in the Streets, which feels very early and has its moments, but feels like an early exposition of emerging compositional expression. The track nonetheless cooks with its galloping tempo, conspicuous guitar riff and the common them of well delivered vocals.
The last third of the 11 installments are made up of two earlier recordings, Hit and Run and Broken Heart and two songs recorded live from Germany, Liar and Prisoner. The former two sound a little wet behind the ears and are good representations of less polished and experienced writing and arranging. The latter two are examples of the prowess, presence and sheer power of live vocal dynamite of which Dokken was capable of igniting.
You may be a ravenous fan that just has to have anything and everything that Dokken has released. You may also just be someone who appreciates hearing an artist ply their craft and develop into something larger than even the artist themselves could imagine at the time. Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself, you will enjoy spending some time in the past, picking out the nuggets of future greatness from the miner’s pan of this collection available now from Silver Lining Music.