CD Review: Dokken / Broken Bones
Don Dokken has always managed to surround himself with a lot of talent. The resume of guitar player’s for Dokken speaks for itself from George Lynch, Reb Beach, Alex de Rosso to John Norum and Jon Levin. But what has seemed missing from the Dokken camp over the past few years in live performances I have witnessed is the vocal deterioration of Don himself. A band that prides itself on harmonies, boundless energy and the cohesiveness of its rhythm section has suffered from listless gigs, unoriginal and dull set lists, some individual standout performances (Sean McNabb and Jon Levin in particular) but little in terms of a band unit. It just hasn’t worked for me. Not that Levin and McNabb are not top-notch players..again far from it. Don has always managed to surround himself with whatever elite talent is available yet even with the best of intentions cannot turn back the hands of time and regain that form that made Dokken one of the THE premier arena acts of the 80’s.
Having said that the last few Dokken albums (2004’s Hell to Pay and 2008’s Lightning Strikes Again) still manage to keep that Dokken spirit alive and well with solid writing and the standout guitar work of Jon Levin. That brings us to 2012 and Broken Bones – the first original album with bassist Sean McNabb and also their first with Frontiers Records. What can fans expect from this new record, the uninspired live act of the past few years or more classic Dokken with over the top hooks and harmonies and some sick guitar work from Levin? Well I wanted to love this record and I do. Solid writing from Don, Jon Levin smokes on this album and I have accepted that whatever limitations there maybe in the live act in the studio Dokken still packs a wallop!
The album opens with “Empire” (no it’s not a Queensryche cover) and we get that signature Levin riff and Dokken harmonies. Lyrically it does sound a bit like that Queensryche song from over 20 years ago but it’s pretty much an old school Dokken track you would expect. No surprises here.
The title track “Broken Bones” has that ‘cowboy desperado Don trying to forget his past love’ feel to it. Yeah…I said cowboy. Just how I picture this one if they ever did a video for it!! At times Don is straining but doesn’t take away from the track at all. Great chorus..Levin again rips.
“Best of Me” is about as happy a Dokken song you will ever get. Pretty upbeat especially for for a Don track. I didn’t care for the tempo on this one. Lyrically its fine but it could have benefited from having been done unplugged or at the very least a slower tempo. I’d like to hear the early demo of this one and see if it was changed at all.
“Blind” is my least favorite track, it just lands flat. No gusto, grit, balls..nothing. Levin has some decent moments but lyrically it didn’t grab me, it probably would have made a decent instrumental!
“Waterfall” has some interesting harmonies and actually works well as a mid-tempo track. Don digs deep for this one lyrically and has a cool riff from Levin during the bridge. It could have been a tad faster at times for me but cool.
“Victim of the Crime” is trippy. It’s not my cup of tea personally and sounds a lot like “Magic Road” from Long Way Home, I’d swear this was John Norum playing on this one. Vocally this is where Don needs to be moving into the future – under control and not straining.
“Burning Tears” is my favorite track on this record. Great tempo, song builds into this awesome over the top we are getting stronger track. Levin’s guitar (at times) sounds a lot like Chris Degarmo on Queensryche’s “One and Only” from Empire. Just my take on it.
“Today” is a real gem too. It serves up a moody acoustic track with lots of feeling and will be a favorite of Don fans for sure. Perfect pitch, terrific lyrics, the song just makes you want to go out and hug somebody! Actually I changed my mind..this is the best song on the record!
“For the Last Time” has that Dokken anthem fist- pumping sort of feel to it. Wild Mick Brown’s drumming is at its best here, a real raise your fist and singalong tune – great up tempo number. Love the harmonies on the chorus!
“Fade Away” is another one of those tracks that Don is famous for..bombastic lost love leaving him…once again. Lyrically it proves to be one of the strongest tracks on the record. Not a ton of harmonies here but they were not needed. Levin is an animal on the bridge..really enjoyed this one.
“Tonight” is another classic Don “I’ve been down this road this before” type theme which seem to constantly stay within the Dokken realm over the years. Good way to end the record on a strong note.
“Broken Bones” does not break any new ground for Dokken fans..but why would you want it to? At this point don’t you want more of the same music and less different albums from your favorite acts? That’s what I want and I think Don has the presence of mind to give Dokken fans what they want in his studio efforts. If he continues to keep top notch talent in that Dokken family I think it’s a win-win for band and fans alike.
Broken Bones drops in North America on September 25th, for all the details, visit Dokken’s website.