Review: Dokken – The Elektra Albums – 1983 – 1987

Review: Dokken – The Elektra Albums – 1983 – 1987

BMG (January 27th, 2023)

Reviewer: Jason Hopper

I’ve been a passionate hard rock and metal aficionado for nearly thirty-five years and love hundreds of bands, but there’s only a few that I would consider to be my ‘Hall of Fame’ type favourites. This band is one of them. When BMG decided to collect the first four Dokken albums from their time with Elektra Records, I could not pass up the chance to review their classic recordings.

Yes, I am biased when it comes to reviewing this collection, but I believe that makes me the perfect person to review the CD box set. Not only did I own all of the cassettes, but eventually all of the original CDs and then all of the CDs again when Rock Candy released them remastered nearly a decade ago. I will compare the original CDs, the Rock Candy version, and this new box set to differentiate sonics and determine if this new version (from mastering engineer Andy Pearce) is worth your money and time.

I’m going to give a quick rundown and review of each album, noting highlights and what those songs did for the scene or for me personally. I’ve never met a single person who considers the debut album ‘Breaking The Chains‘ to be their favourite. I have suspicions about how involved the other band members were in the writing process. All the songs were apparently written by both Don Dokken and George Lynch but outside of the title track, there’s little that represents the sound Dokken would come to be known for. Perhaps the other members threw this together without much thought as it was common for struggling musicians to be in and out of bands in an effort to seek fame and fortune. Bassist Juan Croucier would jump ship to Ratt when he believed the band would be dropped by Elektra due to this album’s poor sales.

Moving on to what I will call the first true Dokken album, ‘Tooth and Nail‘ is leaps and bounds above its predecessor and could have potentially been the best album in this collection if it were not for the production. Hostilities between band members spilled over into the recording process. Tom Werman, Michael Wagener, Roy Thomas Baker, and even Don Dokken all had a hand with the production, with Wagener and Dokken mixing. The sound mix is all over the place and the remastering does little to remedy this. What matters here for fans though is the songs, with at least half of this album consistently being played in set lists to this day. That’s not to take away from the other tracks. Every song on here is killer and I truly believe with better production quality this album could have been their biggest seller.

Dokken’s sound took a leap forward with ‘Under Lock and Key‘. When the atmospheric (and slightly spooky) intro begins, the listener leans forward in anticipation of what’s coming next. Something big is clearly on the horizon. Bam!!! Lynch jumps in with a dirty riff that sets up Don perfectly, and we are off!

The difference between this remaster and the original is subtle but clear. In fact, it is the clarity of the cymbals I noticed first. Listening through my headphones, I feel like I’m in a spacious room with drummer Mick Brown banging away in the dark. What strikes me most is I can tell the cymbals are truly metal disks being tapped (or crashed). Nothing programmed here.

The second aspect that stands out are the gang vocals. The chants of “It’s not love!” and “Lightning strikes again!” sound like a dozen bikers shouting, “Let’s ride!” as they roar out of their favorite bar’s parking lot.  The chorus to ‘In My Dreams’ remains one of the most perfect vocal harmonies ever recorded for any song in the genre. Don Dokken and bassist Jeff Pilson’s timbres work in perfect unison to create a unique band sound that cannot be duplicated.

Now we come to not just my favourite album of the collection, but my favourite album of all time. ‘Back For The Attack‘ is a masterpiece!  I’ve bought this album four different times when released by different labels in an effort to acquire the best sonic sound, it means that much to me. Like many, I discovered Dokken when they were attached to the third Nightmare on Elm Street movie and their track ‘Dream Warriors’ would go on to be arguably their most famous song.

Opening track ‘Kiss of Death’ is their magnum opus and my favorite song by any band. Lynch is on fire with this track, refusing to settle for generic power chords and creating a complex riff that would make them stand out from their contemporaries. I also love the recording uniqueness of the track ‘Prisoner’, a song I always wanted to hear them play live. It sounds like they placed a microphone next to Lynch’s fingers as he went up and down the fret. You can hear him slide his fingers to hit the notes and it gives the track a live feel that you usually don’t get from studio recordings. Finally, I don’t care how much Don allegedly hates this song, ‘So Many Tears’ is one of their best songs and should have been released as a single over ‘Burning Like A Flame’.  Melodic harmonies and arpeggios merge to create a perfect track. One small issue with this release, another missed opportunity to put out the video version of the ‘Dream Warriors’ track, which has a different mix.  Also, where’s the song ‘Back For The Attack’?  Was it too much trouble to include it here, being that it’s been released on other editions of the album?

It’s a shame that Don and George could not hold it together or come up with some amicable way to move forward into the early 90s. Their relationship affected their live performances and therefore their status in the ranking of bands who made an impact in the rock community. They were a B list band with an A list sound. They should have easily been as popular as Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, and Bon Jovi.

The label is not sending out vinyl albums to review so it’s tough to say what those albums will sound like without hearing the physical media, so I can speak for only the MP3s that were provided. After listening to the original recordings, greatest hits update, Rock Candy remasters, and now these new Electra remasters, I have to say this new set is my favorite. The best way I can describe the difference between the originals and this remaster is the difference between listening to the record on your favorite home stereo set up and then listening to the record in the demo room of a high-end stereo shop. Both are terrific, but one is just a notch better. I never thought the originals needed remastering, but after hearing these, I’m glad they were. If you are a fan of this band, you’re going to need to add this to your collection.

Disc 1: Breaking The Chains

  1. Breaking the Chains
  2. In the Middle
  3. Felony
  4. I Can’t See You
  5. Live to Rock (Rock to Live)
  6. Nightrider
  7. Seven Thunders
  8. Young Girls
  9. Stick to Your Guns
  10. Paris Is Burning (Live in Berlin, 1982)

Disc 2: Tooth And Nail

  1. Without Warning
  2. Tooth and Nail
  3. Just Got Lucky
  4. Heartless Heart
  5. Don’t Close Your Eyes
  6. When Heaven Comes Down
  7. Into the Fire
  8. Bullets to Spare
  9. Alone Again
  10. Turn on the Action

Disc 3: Under Lock And Key

  1. Unchain the Night
  2. The Hunter
  3. In My Dreams
  4. Slippin’ Away
  5. Lightnin’ Strikes Again
  6. It’s Not Love
  7. Jaded Heart
  8. Don’t Lie to Me
  9. Will the Sun Rise
  10. Til the Livin’ End

Disc 4: Back For The Attack

  1. Kiss of Death
  2. Prisoner
  3. Night by Night
  4. Standing in the Shadows
  5. Heaven Sent
  6. Mr. Scary
  7. So Many Tears
  8. Burning Like a Flame
  9. Lost Behind the Wall
  10. Stop Fighting Love
  11. Cry of the Gypsy
  12. Sleepless Night
  13. Dream Warriors


  1. Any comment on the packaging? There is an ‘Original Album Series’ version that looks to be identical (not some of the audio differences) but is half the price. Just wondering what you get for the extra cost.

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