Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dokken ~ Erase The Slate

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Style: hard rock
Label: CMC International
Year: 1999
Home: Los Angeles

Members: Don Dokken ~ vocals
Reb Beach ~ guitar
Jeff Pilson ~ bass/keyboards/b. vocals
Mick Brown ~ drums/b. vocals


For me Dokken is all about guitarist George Lynch. I'm not a big fan nor that familiar with his work, but enjoy a lot of what I've heard of it. Don Dokken is a good singer but does nothing for me. He's a singer, but I've written many times I like vocalizers more & his songwriting doesn't wow me beyond the lucky turn of phrase. So, Dokken without Lynch on guitar? Without Lynch's composing influence? I already turn to Lynch Mob & the one-off Lynch/Pilson before Dokken as it is. Thus, the first non Lynch album Erase The Slate really needs something special about it to get my interest as a casual listener. But, it has that in new guitarist Reb Beach. I'm not the biggest Winger fan, but when I saw him with Whitesnake a couple years ago I was blown away. I know every talks about Doug Alrich, but I think when Reb is given a chance he turns in some interesting phrases. Originally John Norum, ironically also of Whitesnake, was brought in to replace Lynch but couldn't stay beyond the tour. So, Beach was called into the studio to help compose & play, though this is his only studio outing with Dokken. Dokken's previous album took a more alt rock direction & has been called the lowest point of their career. Sadly, this album didn't pull them out of the hole very much, but its has some great moments. The problem is that the songs just aren't that interesting beyond Beach's guitar parts & even then he can't always save things looking for commercial hit or interesting hit. Post-Lynch Dokken has been criticized for turning in bland hair metal with little individuality & this just proves the point, though personally I hear that bland cliched sound with Dokken straight through their career from their first hit "Breaking The Chains". Don Dokken just doesn't excite me as anything but a Joe Lynn Turner wannabe but with less of a bluesy soul & this album isn't getting me to change my mind. That being said, whatever of the weaknesses of this album, my view of Beach isn't changing. When this shines its all due to Beach turning in either a great riff or solo & sometimes, thankfully, both. I'd throw some of the tracks on this album on a CD to someone who wanted some examples of Beach's great playing. The title track has a good guitar solo & "Change The World" a good riff & solo, but the lyrics don't do anything for the result, nor the fact that I'm sure Stryper wrote "Change The World" or something similiar 10 years previous, or it sounds like it. While I think they wrote "Who Believes" at the same time, too. The songs that work the best are the more experimental, or riskier, & include where Don Dokken does something different with some more tonal & emotional variations getting out of his comfort zone, such as the great "Maddest Hatter". Dokken may try to erase the slate but they don't leave the comfort zone as much as they need to. "Drown" follows as a highlight with interesting guitars & vocals, though here the heavily criticized alt rock feel becomes apparent. But, its that sense of something different is what's lacking overall here, so while Dokken might not be the next Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the variety is welcomed & needed & the necessary comfort zone break. Without the variety there's no push to the music to be something different from what Dokken did countless albums before. One of the best songs overall on the album is "One" by Harry Nilsson, though many may know this by Three Dog Night. Having spent so much time on Beach's contributions I'm leaving out someone who needs more credit & has a few moments that need to be heard - bassist Jeff Pilson. For a funk version of something that sounds like Tool check out "Voice Of The Soul" where Pilson carries the song. Pilson would join Lynch for Lynch/Pilson, an album I've reviewed glowingly elsewhere & hearing this album now I know that review didn't exaggerate. When Pilson does more than echo Beach's guitar he shines with funky independent lines that are as important as Beach's riffs & are anything but cliched hair metal. "Upon Your Lips" is a great song that also features Pilson incredibly active & is well-worth hearing, while the album ends with the short little bonus instrumental of "Little Brown Pill" that's Reb Beach meats Pilson aka Billy Sheehan, Jr. Dokken released a live album, Live from the Sun, before the departure of both Beach & Pilson, the end of an era for Dokken. John Norum would come back into the picture, but sadly I know less about him then I do Beach, so this is a sell by luck, that's just a tough sell to me.

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