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) (last update 5/23/2017)

January 3, 2013

Dokken ~ Hell To Pay

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Style: hard rock
Label: Sanctuary
Year: 2004
Home: Los Angeles, California

Members: Don Dokken ~ vocals
Jon Levin ~ guitars
Barry Sparks ~ bass
Mick Brown ~ drums

I have trouble calling this the most interesting Dokken album, but ... It doesn't have the 80's hard rock sound of the band's early albums as it goes for something more modern - that's a good thing. The early albums may have the hits & some great guitar work, but they also can be a bit too polished & typical of the era for me & end up sounding more normal than unique - that's not a good thing. This album is missing George Lynch & replacement Reb Beach & while the new guitarist is good I don't get interested in the same way - not so good. & the loss of bassist Jeff Pilson is sorely missed - also not good. I've always turned to Dokken for the guitar playing, not the songs or singing. Vocalist Don Dokken doesn't interest me as a songwriter & these songs continue to be lacking in memorableness. Just more throwaway hard rockers for the concert experience. Just another album for the pile - ouch, not good. While, his singing on so many albums is good but not unique or in the mold of singers I prefer & he might be the reason I've never been a fan. But, all that being said, more bad than good I know, I realize Hell To Pay does have something that makes it recommendable, much to my surprise - it really shows off Don Dokken's singing. Of course, he's always been the focus of the band, obviously, but with George Lynch's amazing playing behind him it was not so much Dokken but Dokken with George Lynch. You heard the singing but you were listening to the guitars. Now it's all Don Dokken in the spotlight & for once you have to listen. It doesn't help that the material isn't always strong you often wander, by default, to his voice. His voice has changed a lot over the years, its mellowed & deepened. I shockingly found it far more enjoyable on this later release than the early albums. So, while it may not be the most interesting Dokken album, I may have found an album to recommend for those interested in Don Dokken ... however odd this may sound. Here his voice is superb & enjoyable & its nuances clear, even if it's not the most distinctive in the rock pantheon ... we can't all be Jon Anderson. Actually, he reminds me a lot of Joe Lynn Turner. It's not a voice you grab when you want unique, its a voice you grab when you want control & quality & just a good warmness. I just prefer Alice Cooper. while I said the songwriting & material is weak, there are a few good songs. Check out "Escape" with its moody rhythm line & "Haunted", "I Surrender" "Better Off Before" are good, saved by Pilson-esque basslines. There's tracks folks will find to enjoy, but compared to other bands or other Dokken albums, not necessarily memorable or rising to the top of the heap. Avoid the sloppy acoustic power ballad "Care For You", unless you like your hard rock Kenny G'd, which also has an "unplugged" version included for no real added value.

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