CD Reviews

Dokken - 'Breaking The Chains' / 'Tooth And Nail' / 'Under Lock And Key' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     October 09, 2014    
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All three of these albums are well worth owning.

Considered one of the archetypal Sunset Strip bands, the explosion of talent that happened in the Hollywood clubs in the early 1980s had actually been brewing since the 1970s when bands like Quiet Riot, Mickey Ratt, Mötley Crüe and Dokken first formed.

Unlike a lot of their independent label-bound brethren, singer Don Dokken, guitarist George Lynch, drummer Mick Brown and former Quiet Riot bass player Juan Croucier went the rather unusual route of getting European management, signing to French label Carrere and heading to Germany to record the original version of ‘Breakin’ The Chains’ in 1981 with producer Michael Wagener. The album got decent enough reviews and sold rather moderately, but a home-grown band without a U.S. deal was a promising enough proposition for Elektra to pick up the album in the hope of emulating the success they’d had with the re-vamp of Mötley Crüe’s ‘Too Fast For Love’. With a sparkling new mix, a re-titling of ‘We’re Illegal’ to ‘Live To Rock (Rock To Live)’ and a longer live version of ‘Paris’ (now called ‘Paris Is Burning’), ‘Breaking The Chains’ (note the added ‘g’!) eventually appeared in 1983 and did merely okay, but as it hadn’t cost them much the label decided to persevere. It’s actually a really good opening statement with the driving title-track, the sassy ‘Felony’, the Pop sensibilities of ‘I Can See You’ and the urgency of ‘Nightrider’ showing a band with song-writing chops, a good singer and an exceptional guitar player, even though they didn’t really get on and spent the whole time arguing. The re-mix was a great idea and the re-master sounds excellent, although personally I would have kept the original track order and the studio version of ‘Paris’ was one of the highlights.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Bassist Juan Croucier hadn’t played on the debut despite being credited, he was also a member of Ratt and things were moving much faster in that camp, so he threw in his lot with them. Dokken picked up a great bassist, singer and writer in Jeff Pilson and the last piece of the definitive Dokken line-up was in place. Produced by Tom Werman (Cheap Trick) and the legendary Roy Thomas Baker (Queen), 1984’s ‘Tooth And Nail’ was a huge step forward and consolidated their own sound, ranging from the hard riffs and breakneck speed of the title-track, ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ and ‘Turn On The Action’ to the balladic ‘Alone Again’. There are no duffers but perhaps the more commercial strains of ‘Into The Fire’ and ‘Just Got Lucky’ score the highest with their vocal harmonies and truly great Lynch solos, this re-issue adding the single edit of ‘Just Got Lucky’ and a live single b-side of ‘Alone Again’. Production-wise it was always a bit thin-sounding, but at least on the re-master you know the bass is there, even if you still can’t hear it clearly.

It was on their third and most successful album that Dokken dropped the big one, even though the band just weren’t getting on, so they brought in Neil Kernon to work with Michael Wagener because they thought Wagener on his own would make Don sound good at their expense. ‘Under Lock And Key’ turned out to be their most consistent set of songs and the perfect balance of melody and aggression. A little more radio friendly in parts than its predecessor, the faster tracks were kept to a minimum with just ‘Lightning Strikes Again’ and ‘Til’ The Livin’ End’ really Rocking out, whilst opener ‘Unchain The Night’ was a bit slower but still had a big riff, a simply awesome guitar solo and a simple chorus that just wouldn’t leave you alone. All the band were on top of their game on the mid-paced Melodic Rock of ‘The Hunter’, ‘It’s Not Love’ and ‘Jaded Heart’, as well as the ballad ‘Slippin’ Away’, but it would be the Poppy crossover single ‘In My Dreams’ that would become the biggest hit with its a cappella intro, saccharine melodies and the fluid Lynch at his most melodic. ‘Under Lock And Key’ would take them to the next level and go on to be regarded as a milestone, not just for Dokken, but of the entire 1980s Hard Rock scene.

All three of these albums are well worth owning, but the second and third are essential listening for anyone interested in the genre, they were all in desperate need of a re-master and Rock Candy have done that with their usual care and attention.

Phil Ashcroft

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