DOKKEN - The Elektra Albums 1983-1987
February 3, 2023, 10 months ago
I have vivid memories of discovering heavy metal music in 1982/83, especially from MTV, and for us here in the NJ area a smaller video channel the U68 Power Hour where Quiet Riot's "Cum On Fell The Noise", and Dokken's "Breaking The Chains" were played all the time. There was also a compilation album on vinyl and tape, Masters Of Metal in 1984 which included one song from Iron Maiden, Triumph, Rainbow, Sabbath, Y&T, Rush, VH, Twisted Sister, KISS, and Dokken’s "Breaking The Chains".
Now in 2023, these first four Dokken albums, Breaking The Chains, Tooth And Nail, Under Lock And Key, and Back For The Attack have been reissued and remastered on CD and record. I was sent the LPs in a nice box set that says The Elektra Albums 1983-1987 on the front. I also still have a home stereo system with speakers, record player, and these albums on vinyl from the ‘80s. So, it will be an audio compare and contrast, along with the inserts. None of these albums include bonus tracks.
Breaking The Chains (1983)
Originally released in 1981 as Breakin' The Chains, with a different colored cover and track list on a French label Carrere, re-released in 1983 on Elektra Records with the lineup Don Dokken on vocals, guitarist George lynch, Juan Croucier who plays on the album and is picture (but Jeff Pilson is in the title track video), and Mick Brown on drums. What's the difference between the original mix and production by Michael Wagner and Dokken and this remaster? I don't hear much difference; the original Elektra release always sounded great, balance between instruments and vocals, not thin or tingy like many hard rock and heavy metal albums suffered from during the ‘80s.
But re-listening to the album I noticed maybe a little more clarity in some of the drums, cymbals and bass. But it’s minimal. Even "Paris Is Burning" live starts the same with some crowd noise but once Lynch start shredding it drops out and the bass comes in. The title track has been a staple live for decades, but I always though "Stick To Your Guns" and "Nightrider" were good too and should be in the setlist from time to time. But songs like "In The Middle", "Felony", "I Can't See You", "Young Girls" (which that riff sounds a lot like "Tell The World" from Ratt), you can tell Don had a good grasp on writing with melody, but it was still a work in progress. The insert on my original is a paper sleeve with pictures of other records on the label, the remaster is blank.
Tooth And Nail (1984)
Produced by Tom Werman (Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, Stryper) this album is flawless; Pilson, Lynch, and Brown contributing to the writing with Don is the natural next step after Breaking The Chains. The remaster is tighter in the drums and less high end with the bass warmer in the mix, but it still maintains the unpolished metal edge. Band is dressed in clothes right out of the ads you would see in Hit Parader and Circus magazines, a little bit VH, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Quiet Riot, it was time to be "rockin with Dokken!".
The dramatic intro "Without Warning" into the title track is full on heavy metal attack, and Lynch came into his own quickly with the riffs, feel, and the melody both in the verses, chorus, and solo. MTV videos for rockers "Into The Fire, "Just Got Lucky", and ballad were perfect choices to make Dokken a household name amongst us rockers and metalheads. Dokken instantly one of my bands in constant rotation. But other tracks like speedy "Don't Close Your Eyes", "Turn On The Action", and that monster opening riff to "When Heaven Comes Down" showed the whole album was strong. Don had a great team. A heavy metal classic for sure.
Under Lock And Key (1986)
Sure, Dokken got glammy for this album cover, but they look sharp and classy in those colored outfits. Even the hair looks like they had a stylist. It's all good, it was the ‘80s, everyone had a lot of hair, teased with hairspray or not. But that's not what is important, it's about the music. And even though with the fashion came more melodic music it was still damn good. With Wagner back as producer and Neil Kernon, this collection of songs is a nice balance between hard rockers like album opener "Unchain The Chain" and the perfect "The Hunter" which has one of Lynch's most incredible guitar solos, and melodic AOR ("Slippin Away", "Jaded Heart", and "Will The Sun Rise"), to heavy metal in the fast "Lightning Strikes Again" and "Till The Living End".
Well-dressed (out of the color outfits) for the surreal "In My Dreams" video, stripped down to denim and leather for "It's Not Love" with the band performing on the back of a flatbed were perfect for MTV made Dokken stars. And if there was going to be a third single, "Don't Lie To Me" would have been a great choice. The remaster is pristine, again takes some of the high end out of it, nice and tight, crunch in the guitars and solid bottom end, punch to the drums, and Don's vocal soars a-top.
Back For The Attack (1987)
And yes, they were! Now as a double vinyl, like the original it includes album credits but no lyrics; the remaster breathes. Pilson's bass is more defined without muddying up the mix nicely in synch with Brown's big drums. Lynch's deadly riff on "Kiss Of Death" kicks off the album with edge and purpose, and his solo incendiary. But no, the album did not lose that balance found on Under Lock And Key. "Prisoner" is the single that should have been, how's that big hook! Wow is Don singing high on this album, see "Night By Night".
Pilson drives "Standing In The Shadows" with that rolling bass line and I love how Lynch phrases that solo and the layer melody. Damn he was just perfection in the ‘80s and deserved his own instrumental on this album, "Mr. Scary". Very cool video for "Heaven Sent" with the band performance in a graveyard, Lynch taking the spotlight during the solo in silhouette. "Burning Like A Flame" another excellent choice for a single MTV video, part animation part the band rockin; on a firetruck. And what better way than to push the success of the album over the edge, the smash hit single for A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors, and promo video with Freddy Krueger. Again, thirteen tracks of all killer no filler. The only negative thing about this reissue is it does not include the song "Back For The Attack", which was the B-side to "Dream Warriors".
Dokken sure earned their place on the Monsters of Rock package tour in 1988 with Metallica, Van Halen, and Scorpions. It's just too bad the band would not be together after the live album Beast From The East in 1988. Now that's an album that can surely use a remix remaster to bring down the crowd noise in the mix. And where is the video footage from the concert?