Dokken – ‘Return To The East – Live 2016’
Of all the bands from the 80s that came and went, then came and went, and came back again, the one that did it for me, more than any other U.S. band, or any other Country come to think of it, was Dokken. One of their songs appeared on a mix tape done for me by my mate, and I was hooked, like a salmon. I even got a newsagent in Wrexham to get me Hit Parader from the U.S. every month so I could catch up on all the Dokken in-house fighting. For a band so bloody good, I could never understand why Dokken and Lynch hated each other’s guts. They were a match made in heaven, yet they seemed unable to be in the same room together. When they went their separate ways they could not match the heights that Dokken made – Don Dokken went solo, Lynch and Brown became Lynch Mob, and Pilson did ……..find out and insert here.
I absorbed every bit of newsprint, I hammered the albums (both vinyl and CD) to a point where ‘yes you can, you can wear out a CD. Fuck You, Tomorrows World!’ They were not a Hair Metal band. Yes, they had the hair, and the outfits, but from 81-89, they were one of the best heavy metal/hard rock bands on the planet
I’ve heard recent ‘best of’ albums, that have been down tuned and re-recorded to meet Don Dokken’s vocal range, after his operation, and if I’m honest, they are not a patch on the originals. In fact, a more recent version of events where T&N (Lynch, Brown and Pilson) re-recorded some Dokken classics and became a Poundland version of Dokken. What it did conclude for me is that the classic ‘Dokken’ sound, comes from none other than the man himself. So because of the past vocal issues, (there is video evidence of regaining some of his range), and anecdotes from friends who have seen Dokken in more recent times, I’ve not wanted to see Dokken as it would ruin my 1980’s God-like opinion I had of him. Until now…..
Never mind the recent snow issue the was the ‘Beast From The east’, Dokken fashioned this phrase way back in ’89, what we have now is the companion piece and follow up to the blisteringly good ‘BFTE’, with ‘Return To The East – Live 2016’. This is just an opinion, but I guess that an absolute shit load of money from the lucrative Japanese market put the seminal line-up together, as I never thought I’d see the day when this would happen, but was surprised when it was announced. This comment from DD taken from ‘The Classic metal Show’ ‘’I don’t see why I need to go back in time and do this. What’s the point? If it’s just for money, they know how I feel about that. And there’s more to life than money. You can live in a mansion and drive a Ferrari and be miserable. And I said, ‘I’m not interested.’’ I honestly don’t believe this for a single second.
I wanted to see the four of them perform again, but had severe doubts it would take place what with Pilson being happily ensconced in Foreigner, and probably had a small window when all the timings fell into place and converged for a few gigs.
Here it is, almost two years down the line from when it was recorded, and I wondered to myself, would it be good, great, average, or just plain ‘shite’. Well reader, I have to say that ‘RTTE-Live 2016’ is a pale imitation to the Dokken of the 1980s. Sure, musically and harmony wise the Dokken of 2016 is as it was 30 years ago. Lynch nails all the solos, to pin point accuracy of the originals and is on imperious form. Pilson and Browns backing vocals are good, and make up for the shortcomings in Don Dokken’s range. All semblance of a high note from the original is pretty much wiped away and discarded like the come on a porn stars tits. If you can get over what’s left Don Dokken’s vocal range, then it could make for pleasant listening.
For me I was just left lamenting the glory days of Dokken.
Just like ‘BFTE’, ‘RTTE’ has a new Dokken track in tow. ‘Its Another day’ has all the Dokken hallmarks that we have come to love, it has the Dokken sound of old, a good riff, which is tuned to work well with Dokken’s range; you don’t get the upper register or ‘Dokken wail’ of old, but you get everything else. It has the feel of ‘Alone Again’ or ‘Will The Sun Rise’ but is a distant relative of the aforementioned. The like part kicks off with the classic ‘Kiss of Death’ and if you are waiting for a classic rendition, it’s not to be found here. Everything is down-tuned to assist Dons vocals. You are singing along, then when it sums to the chorus of ‘Kiss of DEAAAATTTTHHHHH!’ its nowhere to be seen (or heard). ‘The Hunter’ even sees the BVs much lower than the originals, and I know that Pilson can still hit the original notes. If he did then it would further expose how far DDs vocals have dropped.
I can’t say that the performance is being dialed in as I only have the audio, but classics like ‘Unchain The Night’, ‘Into The Fire’ and ‘Dream Warriors’ are all pale imitations of the originals. There’s only one ‘live’ track that made me sit up and take notice, and that is ‘Alone Again’ as the original was not a ‘scream and wail’ effort. It is a fairly reasonable replication, but asking the crowd to sing along in ALL the parts where you expect a wail, shows up what is lacking here. But one decent-average rendition out of 15 just isn’t good enough. All of the harmonies for ‘Its Not Love’ are coming from Lynch, Brown & Pilson. We are even subjected to a poor ‘sing-a-long with Don’ passage and even a bass solo. Really?!
‘In My Dreams’ 2016 is out there in YouTube land (ABOVE) for all to witness. So I will not add further to this when you can witness for yourselves the out of sync, lacklustre vocals. The album finishes with two studio acoustic tracks – ‘Heaven Sent’ and ‘Will The Sun Rise’ and along with ‘Its Another day’, are the best songs on this, because they are tailor measured to Don Dokken’s current range, and they actually carry over very well indeed. Which in itself is a sad thing whereby the best tracks on a live album are the studio songs. As a live album, ‘Return To The East’ fails on numerous levels.
All I can say is that the Japanese must be very easily pleased. Whether it’s a case of being ‘in the moment’ which gigs can have a tendency to do, you get taken along with the emotion. Listening to just the audio, I can’t see what the enjoyment and crowd hysteria is about.
Frontiers are offering this an a couple of different (and nicely packaged) version for the US and EU markets, a box set which includes a tee shirt, CD and DVD. This is strictly for collectors, as this does not sit alongside the Dokken back catalogue at all well. Fans can stick up for Dokken as much as they like, but watch the two versions of ‘In My Dreams’ above and tell me I’m not wrong!
Return To The East? I wish it was a single ticket.
It’s Another day (New Studio Track)
Kiss Of Death
Unchain The Night
When Heaven Comes Down
Breakin’ The Chains
Into The Fire
Tooth And Nail
Alone Again (intro)
It’s Not Love
In My Dreams
Heaven Sent (Acoustic Studio Bonus Track)
Will The Sun Rise (Acoustic Studio Bonus Track)
Don Dokken – Vocals/ Guitar
George Lynch – Guitars
Jeff Pilson – Bass
Mick Brown – Drums
CATALOG# FR CDVD 860 / BARCODE 8024391086049
CATALOG# FR BR 860 / BARCODE 8024391086087
– 2 LP
CATALOG # FR LP 860 / BARCODE 8024391086056
– BOXSET CD+DVD+T-SHIRT (Size L) – LIMITED EDITION
CATALOG # FR BS 860 / BARCODE 8024391086063
RELEASE DATE 20thApril 2018