Dokken – “The Lost Songs: 1978-1981” (Silver Lining Music)
Battle Helm Rating
While the name Dokken is today well established thanks to charting singles, album sales of over 10 million worldwide and 1989’s Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, back in the late 70s an unknown Don Dokken was in his early 20s hanging out at Drake’s Music store in Manhattan Beach, California. Spotted for his talent, he cut his first recordings and was soon heading to tour Germany in 1979 with the first Dokken line-up, where he would meet a young studio engineer called Michael Wagener, who would end up producing and mixing some of the biggest rock albums of the ‘80s: Motley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Accept – and of course Dokken’s classic “Breaking The Chains”! In early 1981, Don Dokken returned to Germany with a new band in tow, including guitarist George Lynch and bassist Juan Croucier, to get a record deal. After recording demos with Wagener at Scorpions’ producer Dieter Dierks’ studios, which Accept’s manager Gaby Hauke took to Carrere Records, Don landed his first record deal. Using the cold, mouldy cellar of the Trost Hotel to write and rehearse in, it was those sessions that saw Dokken’s debut “Breaking The Chains” created and later released in 1983 by Elektra Records, reaching number 136 on the Billboard 200 chart. “The Lost Songs: 1978-1981” is a collection of 11 unreleased demos from those early days that Don discovered nearly four decades later in 2019, and decided to remaster with guitarist Jon Levin and drummer BJ Zampa in bringing back a lot of those early memories of raw magic to share with the fans. At 23 years old, the first thing you notice is how much higher Don Dokken’s voice is like on ‘Liar’, recorded live in Hamburg where his silky-smooth vocals contrast the raw fretboard burning brilliantly and his power scream would have even Rob Halford blushing! With a raw rumbling bass on ‘Felony’, there’s a bluesy contrast to the irresistible hard rock riffing, not to mention the punchy chorus, while the guitar solo with psychedelic touches is totally out of this world on this short if still gamely song. Shredding in with plenty of fretboard slides and a slight new wave touch on ‘Back In The Streets’, the rawness is contrasted by Dokken’s soul and band harmonies, while the solo is nothing short of a barn burner even as it screams to the end! Chugging in on ‘Broken Heart’, the tenderness in Don’s voice contrasts the aggression of the guitars – not forgetting the psychedelic blues rock solo that would make Angus Young blush – in a power meets passion mix whose energy is undeniable as they together culminate in another punchy headline chorus of ‘…all I’ve got…is this…broken heart’ – superb. Ending in another live track, the catchy rolling kick beat to ‘Prisoner’ along with the heavy riffs sets the atmospheric tone on this 6-minute song where Don’s soulful voice comes into its own, as does the lengthy guitar solo in fiery contrast to ambiance before the tempo increases with double bass pedalling to culminate it all in spectacular fashion – as judged by the rapturous applause! Indeed, it was all a precursor to the multi-platinum sales and stadium gigs that would follow….