Review of Dokken’s “The Lost Songs: 1978-1981”

Since the early 1980s, I’ve been an obsessive hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector. I’m in if it has a good guitar riff and attitude.

“The Lost Songs: 1978-1981” is a collection of songs that were lost between 1978 and 1981.

Music with a Silver Lining, 2020

11 Tracks / 42:34 Run Time

I was excited to get my hands on a copy of The Lost Songs 1978-1981, a collection of rare and hard-to-find Dokken tracks released in August 2020 by Silver Lining Music, because I am pretty sure I fall into the second group. Depending on your level of Dokken fandom, this release is either a pointless cash grab or a must-have collectible for Dokken completists.

Don Dokken’s Lost Tracks delves into his tape vaults to unearth some rare gems from the days before platinum records and MTV fame, when Dokken was just one of hundreds of bands trying to make a name for themselves on the L.A. club circuit.

Some of these songs may be familiar to longtime fans thanks to their inclusion on Back in the Streets, a bootleg album of Dokken demos that was popular in the late 1980s. There’s also a track from the very first “Dokken” release, a very rare 7-inch single from 1978 (which this writer had no idea existed until a few years ago!).

The rest of the Lost Tracks is made up of demo songs that never made it onto a studio album, which Don and his current lineup (guitarist Jon Levin, bassist Chris McCarvill, and drummer B.J. Zampa) have polished up. The end result is a bit of a mixed bag, but fans who have only heard this music through low-quality downloads or scratchy YouTube rips should be happy to have it all in one place.

“Take a Deep Breath and Step Into the Light”

The Music

Don’s singing voice has become noticeably huskier and deeper than before, but he manages to make it work. On the next track, “We’re Going Wrong” (from the Back in the Streets demo), Don’s lower register contrasts sharply with the youthful yelp of the early ’80s Don. To be honest, I can understand why his bandmates didn’t like it. The middling-at-best acoustic ballad “Day After Day” (also from Back in the Streets) is followed by the plodding updated oldie “Rainbows,” which Don describes in the liner notes as a song that his band “wasn’t crazy about” when he first wrote it forty years ago, so it was never finished. One of the “new” recordings on The Lost Songs is “Step Into the Light,” a fairly typical ’80s style Dokken track that sounds like it could have come off of Breaking The Chains.

Both have a typical lo-fi, ’80s demo-recording sound quality, but that’s part of the appeal. Thankfully, things pick up with “Felony,” a vintage upbeat rocker that would later be re-recorded for Dokken’s Breaking the Chains debut (1983) — it’s got sizzling guitar work and a chorus that will stick in your head like glue. “Back in the Streets” and “Hit and Run” (how many ’80s bands had a song with that title?) are two songs that come to mind. “No Answer,” a “new” track, would have fit nicely on the Under Lock & Key album; it has a decent hook, but Don’s raggedy, 21st-century vocal delivery drags it down slightly.

It’s by far the lowest-quality recording on the album, sounding like it was dubbed from a fiftieth-generation cassette copy, but it’s still a fascinating listen from a historical standpoint. The song “Broken Heart,” from the little-known 1978 single, piqued my interest. (Interestingly, the single’s A-side, “Hard Luck Woman,” is not included on this CD.)

They’re a fun way to round off this mostly enjoyable collection of miscellaneous items. The Lost Songs concludes with a pair of vintage live tracks from the Back in the Streets bootleg, “Liar” and “Prisoner.” “Liar” was a set list staple in Dokken’s early days, but it was never recorded for an album (though it did appear on the archive release From Conception: Live 1981 in 2007). “Prisoner” is unrelated to the song of the same name from Back For The Attack in 1987.

Some of the songs on “The Lost Songs” were taken from the single “Hard Rock Woman” from 1978 and the bootleg “Back in the Streets.”

To Sum It Up

Obviously, this is a “diehards only” purchase; your mileage will vary depending on your tolerance for recordings that aren’t quite up to album standards. (I’m a nerd, so stuff like this appeals to me.) Overall, The Lost Songs 1978-1981 was a fun trip back in time for me.

For completeness’ sake, it would have been nice if the aforementioned “Hard Rock Woman” had been included, or perhaps some of the “bonus tracks” from international editions of past studio albums (like “If The Good Die Young” from Dysfunctional, “How Many Lies” and “Deep Waters” from Shadowlife, “Upon Your Lips” and “Sign of the Times” from Erase the Slate, etc.) — but maybe not.

The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 is expected to keep Dokken fans occupied until the album is released. Dokken’s current lineup is reportedly still working on a long-awaited new studio album, which is expected to be released this year.

“Back on the Streets” is a song from the album “Back in the Streets.”

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