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This was the high period of Dokken as a commercial machine, as could have been surmised by all of the appearances in guitar magazines, constantly being MTV’s music video rotation, and all of the headlining tours, not to mention Don Dokken’s and George Lynch’s inclusion in the famous/infamous Hear N’ Aid project. But what is less commonly believed is that this was also the high period for the band as a creative force. Say what you will for the band’s girlie glam image, the songs put together here are top notch, spearheaded by signature riffs, catchy choruses, wild guitar solos that still manage to tell a musical story, and just an all around tight arrangement that is extremely easy on the ears.
“In My Dreams” takes the cake for being the most sappy love song that the band has ever put out. Don really liked the ladies and would spend at least half of every album the band put out in the 80s letting everyone know how much, mostly from a monogamous standpoint, which was a little idealistic in the days of rock/metal excess. The riff work definitely shows a strong adherence to late 70s principles but communicated through a strongly 80s production. There’s a bit of Accept here and there, particularly during the verse riff, while the chorus has that really bombastic, dense, Freddy Mercury approach to harmony, but with a more homogenous approach rhythmically rather than all of those contrapuntal countermelodies working in and out of each other in a show choir method.
The b-side choices are a definite contrast to the main song, at least within the context of Dokken’s formulaic approach to rock oriented heavy metal. “Till The Livin’ End” is one of those faster, more guitar oriented songs that shows Lynch taking some influences from Van Halen in the riff department, while the choruses still reflects a somewhat deeper and more somber version of a fanfare rather than the lighter ones heard on songs like “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” or “Unchained”. “Alone Again” is probably the most predictable power ballad the band has churned out, going through an acoustic line that is somewhat loosely similar to “Planet Caravan”, but lacking the psychedelic underpinnings in the production and the jam-like feel in the guitar solo. It rides up there with the title track in terms of happiness, but if basic catchiness and entertainment is what you’re going for, the lyrics sort of fade into the background and the melody becomes an entity onto itself.
This is a collection of songs that I personally like more for the enjoyment factor rather than any sense of artistic enrichment, which is what usually comes out of a work by Dio or Queensryche. The guitar work is a key part of this band’s charm, but Don Dokken’s charismatic vocal style, although a bit light and syrupy compared to most of the other bands involved in 80s mainstream rock at this time like Judas Priest, Dio, and even less metallic ones like Ratt and L.A. Guns, is an intricate part of what makes this work. The band didn’t put themselves off as desiring to be taken seriously based on the elaborate, almost costume-like getups that they’d sport in their music videos, but musically this is a cut above most going along with the whole glam craze, including Motley Crue at this point in the decade.