Tuesday, April 23, 2002 @ 4:12 PM
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He’s an asshole, he’s a king.
Ask any given set of people about any given individual, and some will invariably like him, and some will hate him -- more will probably hate him -- but it all depends on perspective and which side of the fence you’re currently on. For instance, the other day, Mr. Johnson the manager at the McDonald’s I’m currently working at, started screaming at me to hurry up and make sixteen more cheeseburgers for the drive-thru. The whole time he was yelling, I was fuming and thinking that if he’d just get big titted Henrietta, out of the goddamn freezer and off of her cell phone, I wouldn’t have to work so hard. But no, of course he couldn’t do that or else he’d no longer be eligible for the obligatory payday blowjob. Basically, it’s his refusal to do his job properly which requires me to have to take up the slack -- therefore, I dislike him. On the other hand, if you were to ask old platypus mouth Henrietta, she’d probably tell you that he’s just a swell guy -- small maybe -- but swell nevertheless. It’s all about perspective.
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It’s a funny thing, regardless of what I write, half of the ranters on this review will show up just to say that Don Dokken is an egocentric has-been, while the rest will vehemently state their undying allegiance to the lead singer with the reputation for being difficult. Feelings will often get in the way of lucid judgment and names will doubtlessly be flung back and forth. People will invariably prefer this guitarist or that guitarist or demand that Jeff Pilson return. Many of the dissatisfied throng will end up blaming Don, who, let’s face it, is the boss of Dokken. Any little change in the band’s line up is bound to be attributed to him. Whether or not it’s fair for a listener to bring preconceived notions to the table when judging a new album is irrelevant -- it’s the way it is. Bands want you to purchase their albums at least partially on the strength of their previous material or legacy, so for them to just say “you can’t compare this new offering to our other discs” just isn’t going to work. People are always going to compare one album to the next when considering the worthiness of a given selection.
Don and company have been playing the first two selections from Long Way Home throughout their recent tour of the States. The first song, “Sunless Days,” which is currently available for download on KNAC.COM, is the most solid song on the disc. What that says is, if you like that song, you may end up digging a lot of what comes afterward, but if you don’t, you should probably stop reading this and just go ahead and post your rant now because this just isn’t going to be for you. I’m not saying that this tune is a blistering inferno of piss and fire or anything, but it is a song that you can at least throw in your stereo and definitely figure on playing more than once. The guitars, compliments of John Norum (ex-Europe) would sound great if they were played independent of the song, but they aren’t exactly congruent with the softer tone of the lyrics. “Little Girl” is respectable, but it acts like it’s churning and building toward an apex that never really comes. More attention is paid to melody than fist pounding aggression, and with lyrics like “if you can let it all go, even the daze will seem so much brighter. Every night holds a surprise for you,” maybe that’s a good thing.
Two of the ballads on Long Way Home are definitely not normal Dokken fare. They’re very mellow, extremely sentimental songs without the tinge of desperation previous Dokken ballads tend to possess. The first one, “Goodbye My Friend,” deals with a relationship gone awry and the feelings that can linger on afterward. You know, the whole “let’s remain friends syndrome.” The hell with that -- you and I both know that you can only be friends with someone after the termination of a relationship if you are the one who has done the dumping. Kidding. Sort of. The second ballad is entitled, “I’ve Found” and is a melancholy romp dealing with the process of finding that someone special that makes living worthwhile -- I think he wrote it about me my blow up doll. So sentimental. I’m getting choked up right now thinking about it.
That being said, the best guitar solos on this disc are present on “Magic Road,” “Farm Child” and the fastest track on here, “Under the Gun.” Although most of the songs on Long Way Home would be considered slow, mid-tempo or upper mid-tempo with regard to speed -- track nine just rocks. This one would definitely be the one most likely to remind you of a “Back For the Attack” style anthem. Mick’s drumming is solid and Barry’s bass playing is stellar and Don pushes his voice with more than decent results.
That being said, Long Way Home does really miss the mark badly on the chirpy, sing-songy “Everybody Needs To Be With Someone.” This song seems like a cross between Cheap Trick, the Beatles and something that really sucks. Weak lyrics like, “Mother never told you there’d be days like this” certainly don’t help matters any. The worst selection though has to be “Heart Full of Soul.” This sixties staple written by Graham Keith Gouldman comes off as a type of uninspired filler complete with strained vocals and limited emotion. If there ever was any feeling here, it certainly doesn’t translate to this disc.
If you happen to be a hardcore Dokken fan who is willing to make the transition with Don to a more melodious pasture, then you will probably enjoy this album. It has some solid songs on it even though they aren’t what one would normally expect from a typical Dokken release. If you can get past whether or not you like him and actually listen to the music, you will find that this band is attempting to broaden its sound and update it by looking to the tunesmanship of the past. There is more attention paid here to the subtleties of instruments and the harmony and spirit of a song. That type of transition from heavy metal icon to contemplative veteran musicians takes time and fans who are willing to go along for the journey. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the steps you take aren’t so broad that they alienate the existing fan base, but the fact is, for many who’s favorite mantra includes the words “Rockin’ With Dokken,” picking this up may cause confusion and require them to wonder where the rockers they remember so fondly have gone. Like I said, it’s a fair question to ask -- if Dokken is going to play songs from it’s past and print their name on the cover, they will forever be doomed to compete with their legacy, however difficult or unflattering as that may be. Just as with anything else, when it comes down to it, it’s all about perspective and where you’re coming from. If Don had released this work under the title “Don Dokken” or “Don Dokken’s Magical Journey,” then the preconceptions wouldn’t be as much an issue, but the fact is, this is a Dokken album and compared to the works of the past, it isn’t one of their stronger works.