Dokken – Return to The East Live (2016) (Live Album Review)

In the world of Rock-n-Roll, there are a few reunions many would never expect to see. Just to name a couple, most never expect to see Sebastian Bach ever return to Skid Row, as many others never expect to see The Smiths reunite. Speaking of which, when the classic lineup of Dokken parted ways over the course of a few year span between 1998 and 2001, most never expected to see them back together again. But, hey, David Lee Roth went back to Van Halen, so anything is possible!

Fortunately for Dokken fans, anything was possible, and in 2016 a very unforeseen reunion came together when Vocalist Don Dokken, Guitarist George Lynch, Bassist Jeff Pilson, and Drummer Mick “Wild” Brown partook in a Unleashed In The East mini-tour of Japan from October 5th through 12th of that year. Amazing, right? Well, it was only a limited time, but something is better than nothing. If anything, fans should be thanking the Japanese for making the guys of Dokken an offer they could not refuse in order to get the wheels turning for the reunion. 

The other down side, most fans probably missed it because anyone outside of Japan more than likely did not have the time, or money, to fly in for the shows. Have no fear though because on Friday, April 20, 2018 Frontiers Music s.r.l. will release the very special concert experience under the title Return to The East Live (2016).

Right off the bat a must have for their devoted fans, the much-anticipated live album comes in various formats, so let us get these details out in the open. First, there is the more traditional CD and DVD package, where you get the sound and visual. Then there is the Blu-ray, a 2 LP set, the more modern digital copy, and lastly the limited edition box set containing a CD, DVD, and t-shirt. In case fans were wondering, the theme of the mini-tour revisited Dokken’s epic Beast From The East live album from back in 1988.

Consisting of all 12 tracks recorded while on the Japanese run, the live album includes bonus material such as an acoustic studio recording of “Heaven Sent” and “Will The Sun Rise.” Oh yes, let us not forget the biggest selling point of this neat little package, a brand new studio song from Dokken’s classic lineup called “It’s Another Day.” That is right, Dokken, Lynch, Pilson, and Brown were all together in a recording studio more than likely for the first time since the sessions for 1997’s Shadowlife. Now that is a big deal! 

Chances are many fans are first and foremost interested in hearing the details on the new song, so let us look at that first. “It’s Another Day,” a collaborative writing and recording effort by all 4 members of the classic Dokken lineup, sounds great, and yes, has that classic Dokken sound. Heavy and lively, it is reminiscent of a song one may expect to hear on 1985’s Under Lock and Key. Before jumping the gun, yes it sounds more modern, because recording techniques are different nowadays, but aesthetically it is in vein of Dokken’s classic era. Lynch’s guitar work is blistering, Pilson’s bass is thick, Brown’s drumming is tight, and Dokken’s voice is haunting. 

With the most important examination completed, Dokken ask listeners to turn their attention to the live recording, which is quite good. As a whole, the four musicians sound tight, and on stage, it seems the chemistry never left. You need to consider that for the past 15 years, minus Don and Brown, Lynch and Pilson have been busy with other projects outside of Dokken, so to jump right on tour and record a live album is a daunting task. Usually after such a long span a part, a band would want to take months to rehearse and brush off the dust, but unfortunately time does not allow such with Lynch’s busy schedule with his various projects, including Lynch Mob, as well as Pilson’s busy touring schedule with Foreigner. That in mind, the music sounds crisp, Lynch deliveries killer guitar riffs/solos, while the harmonies are strong, and the guys really do not miss a beat. 

It is always difficult when a singer known for such a high register, such as Don, has such a long career. He certainly is not the singer he was in the ’80s, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Names like Joe Elliot, Brian Johnson, and Jon Bon Jovi come to mind: their vocals have changed over the years but they have all adapted, enjoying long, successful careers. Now it feels as if Don has reinvented his vocals, and they fit wonderfully with all these classic songs. 

The first of live tracks, “Kiss of Death,” opens with thunderous drums and bass, and screeching guitar to drive the point home; it is like a Mick Brown vs. George Lynch heavyweight fight. Slowing it down slightly, but not losing any intensity, is “The Hunter.” Don sounds great, and the backing vocals add depth and emotion to this song. Dokken has always been known for wonderful harmonies and backing vocals, which gives their in-your-face Rock-n-Roll even more depth and marketability.

Dokken songs have always seemed to vary just the right amount from one another: you are never bored by too much repetition or shocked by a song that does not fit the album. Return to The East Live (2016) is certainly no exception, and some of that perfect variety on this album includes early songs such as the heavy rocking “Tooth and Nail” and “Breaking the Chains.” On the slower side are “Alone Again,” and the radio-friendly “In My Dreams.” AdditionallyPilson delivers a killer bass solo on “It’s Not Love;” always a fan-favorite, there is plenty of crowd interaction and singing along.

Overall, Return to The East Live (2016) is not something to add to your collection just for a novelty purpose. It is quite good! Not every band can pull off such a feat live, let alone so late in their career, but Dokken delivers! A big, full sound describes this entire live recording perfectly. In fact, you will get the sense you are there in the audience: there is enough crowd noise, sing-alongs, and a great job capturing the ambiance while not losing the band’s stellar performance. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Return to The East Live (2016) 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Return to The East Live (2016):

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