CD/DVD Reviews ? Dokken: From Conception: Live 1981 and Unchain the Night

From Conception: Live 1981
Rhino (R2 74888)
Grade: HHH

Unchain the Night
Rhino (R2 970222)
Grade: HHH

At one point during Unchain the Night ? the recently issued DVD version of Dokken?s first home video, featuring unreleased material and new interviews ? singer Don Dokken reveals that he?s ?not a camera guy? and that ?I don?t like doing this.?

Could?ve fooled us.

His frank and insightful introductions to the four bonus videos (?Burning Like a Flame,? ?Heaven Sent,? ?Walk Away? and ?Dream Warriors?) address everything from early disdain for guitarist George Lynch to fan demands that the band return to its earlier sound.

And the 29-minute interview with Dokken and the only other remaining original member, still-obnoxious drummer Mick Brown, reveals even more.

Both Unchain the Night and From Conception: Live 1981 (a concert recorded before the band signed with Elektra Records) amply demonstrate what set Dokken apart from the era?s other so-called hair-metal bands. The four studio albums released by the original lineup still sound darker, more complex and more threatening than anything Motley Crue, Poison or Quiet Riot ever released. Unchain the Night?s main feature captures the band?s rise with 45 minutes of on- and off-stage footage shot by Dokken, Brown, Lynch and bassist Jeff Pilson using Super 8 cameras while on tour in 1985, juxtaposed with seven of the band?s dated, yet still fun-to-watch, earlier videos. The video for ?In My Dreams,? for example, may be responsible for all of those other rocking-in-the-rain concepts.

Meanwhile, the 10 songs on From Conception were discovered in the band?s archives last year by Don Dokken. Despite the moldy condition in which they were found, the audio quality remains surprisingly impressive a quarter-century later, and the set features songs that eventually wound up on Dokken?s debut CD, Breaking the Chains ? including ?In the Middle? and ?Paris? (later lengthened to ?Paris Is Burning?). Three previously unreleased songs that Elektra execs wrongly deemed not commercial enough are here, too: ?Goin? Down,? ?Liar? and ?Hit and Run.?

And it?s a good thing Don Dokken?s stage banter improved. ?Are there any rockers out there?? he bellows in the middle of ?Night Rider.? Duh. He does a much better job with the liner notes, explaining the story behind From Conception, but offering no information regarding the date or venue where this gig was captured.

Enjoyed collectively, From Conception and the enhanced version of Unchain the Night portray a band hungry for success and excess ? two goals Dokken overwhelmingly achieved. They also put into context the raw-to-slick musical period widely considered to be Dokken?s most fertile. No wonder the band?s first studio album for Rhino Records, due this summer, takes its hopeful title from a song on 1985?s Under Lock and Key: Lightning Strikes Again.

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