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CD Review: Dokken – From Conception: Live 1981

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dokken fromconceptionlive1981Dokken's 1979 demo, Back in the Streets (available for free download here), is worth hearing, as it's quite unlike what the name Dokken typically evokes. It's a short set of fairly raw glam rock that's bouncy and decidedly '70s. Dokken's first album, 1983's Breaking the Chains, was almost completely different – slick, polished, very '80s LA. From Conception: Live 1981, culled from long-forgotten West Coast dates, captures Dokken's sound in between.

The band has had a number of live albums (Beast from the East, One Live Night, Live from the Sun). This one, though, is interesting because the band hadn't "lost its innocence" yet. Dokken hadn't yet signed to a US label, and multiplatinum success was years away.

Thus, the sound is an intriguing combination of raw glam rock and slick hair metal. Although 60% of Breaking the Chains is on here (as well as three previously unreleased songs and a guitar solo by George Lynch), the band has a hungry edge lacking on its later, more mature live recordings.

Even though Don Dokken was one of the best singers in hair metal, and Lynch was one of its most technically accomplished guitarists, Dokken didn't have the personality that peers like Ratt and Poison had. Its songs were too perfect, and their execution was too clean.

However, these complaints vanish here, as this disc captures an energetic club date in great, natural sound. Lynch's tone is ripping, although his unaccompanied solo is a boring mishmash of two-handed tapping and whammy bar divebombs; he's every bit the technical equal of Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads, but without the soul.

The real stars here are the songs, which are maddeningly catchy. "Paris is Burning" kicks things off strongly, "Live to Rock (Rock to Live)" lives up to its name, and "Young Girls" is about, well, young girls. "Nightrider" becomes an eight-minute jam due to a rather silly call-and-response section that shows off Dokken's powerful voice. No live disc would be complete without inane stage banter, and this one has it in spades – lots of "I can't hear you!" and such. At one point, Dokken congratulates the crowd on making some noise: "That's the LA attitude!" Ah, those were the days.

For those who see Dokken as mere corporate rock or an ironic T-shirt, this disc should be a pleasant surprise. In a way, it lives up to the promise of hair metal more than the era's studio albums ever did: hot, sweaty rock 'n' roll.


Dokken on MySpace
Rhino Records
Frontiers Records

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