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Dokken, "The Lost Songs: 1978-1981" Review

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I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

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"The Lost Songs: 1978-1981"

Silver Lining Music, 2020

11 Tracks / Run Time: 42:34

Depending on your level of Dokken fanhood, this release is either a totally unnecessary cash grab, or a must-have collectible for completist fanboys. Since I am pretty sure I fall into that second group, I was excited to get my hands on a copy of The Lost Songs 1978-1981, a collection of rare and hard-to-find Dokken tracks that was released in August of 2020 by Silver Lining Music.

With Lost Tracks, Don Dokken cracked open his tape vaults to reveal some obscure goodies from the days before the platinum records and MTV stardom, when Dokken was just another one of the hundreds of bands trying to make a name for themselves on the L.A. club circuit.

Some of these tracks may sound familiar to longtime fans due to their presence on Back in the Streets, a bootleg album of Dokken demos that was a fairly common sight in the late '80s. There's also a track from the very first "Dokken" release, an extremely rare 7-inch single from 1978 (which this writer didn't even know existed till just a couple of years ago!).

The remainder of the Lost Tracks come from a vintage stash of demo songs that never made it onto a studio album, which have been polished up by Don and his band's current lineup (guitarist Jon Levin, bassist Chris McCarvill, and drummer B.J. Zampa). The end result is something of a mixed bag, but fans who may have only heard this stuff via poor quality downloads or scratchy YouTube rips should be pleased to finally have it all collected in one place.

"Step Into the Light"

The Songs

The Lost Songs kicks off with "Step Into the Light," one of the "new" recordings, which is a pretty typical '80s style Dokken track that sounds like it could've come off of Breaking The Chains. Don's singing voice is noticeably huskier and deeper than it used to be, but he makes it work. Don's lower register on that track is quite a contrast to the youthful yelp of the early '80s Don we hear next, on "We're Going Wrong" (from the Back in the Streets demo). "Day After Day" (also from Back in the Streets) is a middling-at-best acoustic ballad, followed by the plodding updated oldie "Rainbows," which Don describes in the liner notes as a song that his band "wasn't crazy about" when he first wrote it forty years ago, so it was never finished. Honestly, I can see why his band mates didn't care for it.

Fortunately things pick up again with the vintage upbeat rocker "Felony," which would eventually be re-recorded for Dokken's Breaking the Chains debut (1983) -- it's got sizzling guitar work and a chorus that will stick in your head like glue. The "new" track "No Answer" would have fit nicely on the Under Lock & Key album; it has a decent hook, but Don's raggedy, 21st century vocal delivery drags it down slightly. "Back in the Streets" and "Hit and Run" (how many '80s bands had a song by that title?) both have typically flat, lo-fi, '80s demo-recording sound quality but that's part of their charm.

I was especially interested to hear "Broken Heart," from the little known 1978 single. It's by the worst quality recording on the album -- it sounds like it was dubbed from a fiftieth generation cassette copy -- but from a historical perspective it's still a fascinating listen. (Oddly, the A-side of that same single, "Hard Luck Woman," does not appear on this CD.)

The Lost Songs wraps up with a pair of vintage live tracks: "Liar" and "Prisoner," also from the Back in the Streets bootleg. "Liar" was apparently a set list regular in Dokken's early days but it was never recorded for a proper album (though it did appear on 2007's archive release, From Conception: Live 1981). "Prisoner" has no relation to the song with the same title on 1987's Back For The Attack. They're a cool way to cap off this mostly satisfying collection of odds and ends.

Some tracks on "The Lost Songs" came from 1978's "Hard Rock Woman" single and the "Back in the Streets" bootleg.

Some tracks on "The Lost Songs" came from 1978's "Hard Rock Woman" single and the "Back in the Streets" bootleg.

Summing It Up

All in all I found The Lost Songs 1978-1981 to be a fun trip back in time. Obviously this sort of thing is a "diehards only" purchase -- your mileage will definitely vary depending on your tolerance for less-than-album-quality recordings. (I'm a nerd, so I love stuff like this.)

It would have been nice if the aforementioned "Hard Rock Woman" had been included on this collection, just for completeness' sake, or maybe some of the "bonus tracks" from international editions of past studio albums (like "If The Good Die Young" from Dysfunctional, "How Many Lies" and "Deep Waters" from Shadowlife, "Upon Your Lips" and "Sign of the Times" from Erase the Slate, etc.) -- but maybe Don's holding onto those for an eventual Lost Songs Vol. 2.

The current lineup of Dokken is apparently still at work on a long delayed new studio album, which is supposed to be released sometime this year. The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 should keep Dokken fans occupied until it finally appears.

"Back in the Streets"

© 2021 Keith Abt

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