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The "then" is better than the "now". - 64%

hells_unicorn, November 21st, 2009

There is always a stream of pointless compilations following great bands who have been at their craft for a few decades, but somewhat less common in this context is a reasonably good compilation that gets sabotaged by the introduction of pointless songs that bear little relation to the majority of the ones found on here. This is exactly what happens on Dokken’s “Then And Now”, which stands as sort of an odd attempt at merging the glory days of the band in the 80s via the live medium with a series of stylistically very different songs from very different albums during their later years.

Focusing first on the “Then” part of the compilation, there is essentially nothing but great performances of recognizable hits from various points in the band’s lengthy career as a touring sensation in the 80s. The usual flaws in the live venue that have always dogged this band remain, namely Don Dokken’s voice sounding extremely hoarse in comparison to what you hear on the studio recordings, but this amounts to him sounding a little more aggressive rather than sloppy. But listening to songs like “Kiss Of Death” and “Tooth And Nail” reminds of a tight rhythm section and a guitarist in George Lynch who effortlessly turns a mess of shred lines and guitar squeals into pure poetry.

Unfortunately, the “Now” part of the collection throws the pacing completely off, in large part because of where they elected to draw their current material from. “Erase The Slate” is the only completely logical choice here as it is the closest to their old material and features a guitarist that somewhat resembles their original guy. “Little Girl” and “Maddest Hatter” are not bad songs in themselves and do come from albums that were well put together, but the contrasting of the majestic 80s character of older material with the muddy rock character of the former or the modern character of the latter becomes an issue. All that can be said about “Puppet On A String” is that, like every other woefully ill-conceived piece of garbage on “Shadowlife”, is that it has no place on a Dokken compilation, any more than any song off of “The Least Successful Human Cannonball” has any business on a Destruction compilation.

Mixed bag city seems to be the locality of this release, somewhere in the sub-urban district of flawed pacing. It’s not bad, particularly for someone who is looking for a decent live album with a rare acoustic version of “Unchain The Night“, but the skip button will likely be necessary every now and then. Like all residents of the town where things are done just slightly better than halfway, this should be picked up in the bargain bin, if at all. But those who want the real Dokken experience on a live album are encouraged to go back to when the band was at the top of their game, namely “Beast From The East”.