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Forgotten Hard Rock Albums: Dokken, "Erase the Slate"

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Dokken "Erase the Slate" cover

Dokken "Erase the Slate" cover

Dokken - "Erase the Slate"

CMC International Records, 1999

12 tracks, 47:56

'80s rockers Dokken seemed to be on the verge of a legitimate comeback when they returned from a seven year hiatus in 1995 and released the reunion album Dysfunctional. In spite of being released in the midst of the grunge rock revolution, Dysfunctional reportedly managed to move nearly a quarter-million copies worldwide. Unfortunately, the band couldn't maintain that momentum. The long-standing animosity between vocalist Don Dokken and guitarist George Lynch began rearing its ugly head again during the sessions for Shadowlife, the disastrous follow-up that saw the band trying to adapt to the changing musical tides rather than maintaining their core sound. Shadowlife was dead on arrival as soon as it hit record stores, and Lynch was out of the band, leaving Dokken without a guitarist. Without missing a beat, guitarist Reb Beach, fresh off of stints with Winger and Alice Cooper, was hired to replace Lynch, and in 1999 they released Erase The Slate -- a return-to-form disc that brought back their traditional, '80s style melodic hard rock sound and washed away the bitter taste of the Shadowlife debacle.

"Erase the Slate"

The Songs!

Many listeners (this writer included) had doubts that Dokken would still sound like "Dokken" without George Lynch's distinctive guitar playing. I was never a big Winger fan so I was mostly unfamiliar with Reb Beach when I first heard this album in 1999. Thankfully, my fears evaporated as soon as the high-speed, slippery riffing of Erase The Slate's title track blasted out of my speakers. Beach's flashy playing fit Dokken's sound like a glove.

Lead vocalist Don Dokken also sounded like he'd been re-energized by the new blood in the band. His vocals on the excellent "Maddest Hatter" and "Change The World" were some of his best performances in years.

The majority of Erase The Slate consists of the typical hard-edged, hook-laden songs that fans expected to hear from Dokken, even as the lyrics took on a more serious, introspective slant than they did in the band's party-hearty late '80s heyday (see: "Drown" and "Voice Of The Soul").

The 1999 version of Dokken may have been older and wiser, but they still knew how to have fun, as evidenced by "Crazy Mary Goes 'Round," a good time party rock throw down with drummer "Wild" Mick Brown showing off some impressive lead-vocal chops. The Three Dog Night oldie "One" seemed like an odd choice for a cover at first glance, but Dokken absolutely hits it out of the park. Even after all these years, it's one of my favorite songs on Erase The Slate.

The album's last track is the over-baked ballad "In Your Honor" and then the disc closes with a brief jazzy, untitled instrumental bit to end things on a high note. It was official - after a rough couple of years, all was well in Camp Dokken in 1999.

"One" (Three Dog Night cover)

Dokken's tour in support of Erase The Slate was captured for the 2000 live album and video Live From The Sun, taped at the Sun Theater in Anaheim, CA. Unfortunately Live From The Sun would prove to be Dokken's last album with Reb Beach, who left the band shortly after its release. Longtime bassist Jeff Pilson also exited the Dokken fold around this time.

The guitar and bass positions in Dokken became something of a revolving door for the next several years. Former Europe guitarist John Norum (who was also a veteran of Don's solo band) filled in for the next studio album, 2002's Long Way Home, and current guitarist Jon Levin made his debut on 2004's Hell To Pay. Bassist Barry Sparks came aboard for Long Way Home and stayed through 2008's Lightning Strikes Again. On 2012's Broken Bones, the last Dokken studio album to date, Sean McNabb was in the bass slot but he has since been replaced first by Mark Boals, and then by current bass player Chris McCarvill. Mick Brown retired in 2019, and his slot was filled by House Of Lords drummer B.J. Zampa.

The band has continued to tour (with George Lynch occasionally making guest appearances) and a new studio album is tentatively due for release in late 2022.

Dokken 1999, L-R: Mick Brown (drums), Reb Beach (guitar), Don Dokken (vocals), Jeff Pilson (bass)

Dokken 1999, L-R: Mick Brown (drums), Reb Beach (guitar), Don Dokken (vocals), Jeff Pilson (bass)

© 2018 Keith Abt