THE LOST SONGS: 1978-1981
Released on August 28, 2020 (Silver Lining Music)
I think that it’s important to recognize what Dokken‘s latest album The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 represents. It’s a collection of early demos that Don Dokken unearthed and in some cases recently finished so that he could release an album’s worth of material and make some money after getting apparently screwed over many years ago by German label Repertoire Records who released six of those songs on the “Dokken” EP Back In The Streets. I never picked up that Back In The Streets EP back in the day as I always felt that it was an unauthorized bootleg not sanctioned by the band.
I am not exactly sure how but as I listened to The Lost Songs: 1978-1981, I was actually familiar with the six songs that were part of the Back In The Streets EP — the title track, “Day After Day”, “We’re Going Wrong”, “Felony” and the two live tracks “Liar” and “Prisoner.” Obviously, “Felony” was on Dokken‘s debut album Breaking The Chains and it remains one of my favourites off that record but it always felt like a bit of an outlier on that album. The demo version of the track on The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 is definitely rough around the edges but it does stand out as one of the better demos on that record, in large part due to Don Dokken‘s vocal delivery being less monotone than on many of the other songs such as “Step Into The Light” and “Rainbows.” “Hit And Run” and “Liar” showed up on Dokken‘s live record From Conception: Live 1981, which was mainly live tracks from the Breaking The Chains album era along with a few unreleased songs. Funny enough, I had always thought that I had reviewed the album From Conception: Live 1981 for Sleaze Roxx back in the day but apparently not.
The one noticeable thing right away with The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 is the very ’70s sounding recordings. It does take some getting used to. Much has been said about Don Dokken‘s deteriorating voice over the years so I was expecting some impressive vocal deliveries from the singer on these early demos but that’s not the case. Sure, Don Dokken is able to seemingly hit all the notes on the demos but his vocals are quite subdued compared to what you can hear on Dokken‘s classic albums Tooth And Nail, Under Lock And Key and Back For The Attack. Perhaps it’s the brilliance of the producers on those latter albums or simply that Don Dokken’s singing improved over time from the demos on The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 to those classic records but there is big difference in the vocal quality department. Accordingly, if you’re expecting some vintage Don Dokken singing on The Lost Songs: 1978-1981, you may well be disappointed. Rather, the album shows the evolution that Don Dokken had to become the multi-platinum selling artist that he became through the band using his last name.
It is also noteworthy to note that only one song (“Felony”) made it onto Dokken‘s debut album Breaking The Chains so you have to think that many of the tracks on The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 would have been presented in some form or another for the band’s debut album but simply didn’t cut it at that time. Therefore, what you really have on The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 are a bunch of at the time “rejected” or unfinished songs. My favourites on the record are the faster paced numbers such as “We’re Going Wrong”, “Back In The Streets”, “Hit And Run” and ‘Liar.” As previously mentioned, there are a few songs such as “Step Into The Light”, “Rainbows” and “No Answer” where Don Dokken delivers a rather flat monotone vocal delivery that makes those songs bordering on boring. The ballad “Day After Day” has potential but the very ’70s sounding recordings do not do it justice.
At the end of the day, I am glad that Don Dokken elected to release The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 for a variety of reasons including that he can make some money off his actual recordings and that it’s a nice keepsake for any long-time Dokken fans. However, if you’re a younger rocker just discovering Dokken for the first time, starting off with The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 is simply the wrong thing to do as Don Dokken, once he hooked up with the classic line-up of guitarist George Lynch, bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer “Wild” Mick Brown, would go on to evolve and improve, and together they released some of the best albums of the ’80s. The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 is a nice addition to my Dokken collection but not an album that I will be likely revisiting in the future.
01. Step Into The Light
02. We’re Going Wrong
03. Day After Day
06. No Answer
07. Back In The Streets
08. Hit And Run
09. Broken Heart
Don Dokken – lead vocals
Jon Levin – guitar
Drake Levin – guitar
Rustee Allen – bass
Bill Lordan – drums
BJ Zampa – drums
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, October 2020
Dokken‘s “Step Into The Light” video:
Dokken‘s “No Answer” lyric video: