Dokken 2008 / Deadline 2020
Breaking a metal chain, the original dream warrior bares his ballad-ridden underbelly.
Having a vehicle bearing one’s name can be both liberating and limiting: it’s a dichotomy this singer fully experienced when his ensemble went on hiatus and he took a support slot for other people – alone, in an unplugged manner, selling the appropriately titled “Solitary” at select concerts. Unlike Don’s individual debut, “Up From The Ashes” from 1990, which followed Dokken’s collective template, with heavy rock songs demonstrating the breadth of vocalist’s range, a dozen pieces gathered here – where three covers expand the original run now – focus on his voice’s depth. Their relative homogeneity can grate, though, because there’s no contrast between the slow numbers, but most of the melodies on display are alluring enough to warrant repeated spins.
Such is the folk-informed opener “In The Meadow” whose velvet caress feels so arresting, its apologetic, faux-orchestral flow pulling the listener in, and “The Tragedy” whose exquisite lyricism will take your breath away, while “Sarah” marries acoustic vibe to electric riffs. DOKKEN aficionados may see some tracks as a continuation of the band’s repertoire – the glimmering, raga-tinged “I’ll Never Forget” an answer to “I Remember” and the operatic “All That Love Can Be” to “It’s Not Love” – yet the new part of the latter pair was written by and laid down in the memory of Don’s friend James Horner, the composer of “My Heart Will Go On” that Dokken also added to this album without providing any fresh perspective, except tremulous delivery, for it.
A few other ballads seem quite generic, even if they’re fleshed out with a gentle groove courtesy of the singer’s colleagues like Tony Franklin and Vinnie Colaiuta, which can’t be said of his sparse, piano-driven, spiritual reading of Labrinth’s “Jealous” or the transparent “Venice” that should carry a country influence way beyond simple tranquility. Despite its romantic setup, there’s a lot of emotions on “Solitary”: isn’t it time, then, that Don Dokken overcome his health issues and bring about another record?