DOKKEN in the Dirt – Part 2

The latest Disc in the Dirt feature is focused on the catalogue (1995 – 2002) of the iconic band, Dokken. (Disc in the Dirt – Dokken Part 1).

This is probably the most controversial period in the band’s history, starting with the departure in classic sound with Dysfunctional, leading up to the more reflective rocking of Long Way Home in 2002.

Dokken, therefore, maintained the same personnel until Erase the Slate, where George Lynch finally left and his legacy was set in stone.  It was an amazing run that culminated in the brilliant Back for the Attack collection.

Dysfunctional (1995)

This is a real head-scratcher of an album.  It was released at the tail end of the Grunge era and there are minor elements that make some songs sound like that genre.  However, it also echoes the harmonies associated with the Beatles or the Byrds.

The sound is quality, regardless of how fans received the change in tone.  It rocks hard and does include loads of memorable songs, including the sleaze of “Shadows of Life” and the wonderful harmonies of “Hole In My Head.

The Grunge elements have been over-played by critics of the record.  Sure, there are pops of it “Inside Looking Out“, but largely the album just sounds different to the classic sound that made such a mark in the Eighties.

Top Track: “The Maze”

Disc Rating: 7/10

Shadowlife (1997)

Many critics have dismissed this record as being a stain on the band’s discography.  However, there is more to this collection than just being remembered as George Lynch‘s last studio album.

The record has once again been touched by the type of sound being made by Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains. However, it feels real – that is my personal opinion and I stand by it.

Haters will always hate, but this beast still is impressive.  It has so many great musical moments, that I will always be impressed.  The opener of “Puppet on a String” sets the tone with its moody heaviness.  It is then followed up by knock out punches of songs such as “Sky Beneath My Feet” and the amazing lyrical tour-de-force of “Convenience Store Messiah.

I don’t care if this is not classic sounding Dokken.  It is better than most Alice in Chains albums and that is my hot take!

Top Track: “Convenience Store Messiah”

Disc Rating: 8/10

Erase The Slate (1999)

The band said goodbye to Lynch and welcomed the talented Reb Beach (Winger) to the fold.  He played a key part in this return to more classic Dokken.  Unfortunately, it is my least favourite of their albums as it sounds too much like everything else they recorded.

Reb‘s guitar playing is fine and he rips through solos like a hot knife through butter.  However, the material sounds dated and disappointing, especially compared to the experimentation on the two previous releases.

The one great thing about this album though is the bass playing of Pilson, who holds it all down with a virtuoso performance.  The final track of “Surprise Bass Solo” is wonderful and has a really Billy Sheehan tone.

The only two songs I really dig are “The Maddest Hatter” and “Crazy Mary Goes Round.”

Top Track: “Crazy Mary Goes Round”

Disc Rating: 5/10

Long Way Home (2002)

Long Way Home is the only Dokken album that features Europe guitarist John Norum and the first featuring bassist Barry Sparks.

One of the songs on the album, “Heart Full of Soul“, is a cover version of the 1965 single by the English rock band The Yardbirds. The rest of the record is all original material.  The lower register of Don‘s singing is noticeable on this release but doesn’t detract from the strength of the songs.

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard this first.  It sounds bright, thoughtful and nowhere near bubblegum.  The guitar playing is cool by Norum, but the only downside is the drum sound, which is tinny.

The songs hold their own against the Dokken back catalogue, but it is nowhere near their best release.

I was really impressed with the songs like “Everybody Needs (To Be With Someone)” and the piano-infused “There Was A Time.”

Top Track: “Heart Full of Soul”

Disc Rating: 7/10

Final Thoughts

This period is generally viewed as the poorest of the Dokken catalogue. but I do rather like the majority of the records, excluding the poor Erase The Slate.

The next part is the final set of releases up to Broken Bones.

Also, check out Part 1 here: Disc in the Dirt – Dokken Part 1.

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