Once again Don Dokken has reassembled the band that has been his meal ticket since the early 80’s, and this time returns more to the style that made the band famous. Gone is star guitarist George Lynch and bassist Jeff Pilson, replaced by former Europe guitar player John Norum, and bassist Barry Sparks, who spent time with Michael Schenker and Yngwie Malmsteen. So, along with founding member Mick Brown on drums, one would think that this hot line-up would produce a kick-ass album, right? Well, sort of.
First things first-this is Don Dokken’s band now, plain and simple. With no George Lynch around to steal his thunder, Don is clearly in the driver’s seat, and each of the CD’s ten cuts are highlighted by the singers melodic vocals and desperate lyrics of love turned sour. Gone are the wicked, catchy riffs and lightning solos that Lynch contributed, which helped make the trademark Dokken sound back in the 80’s. Norum is a fantastic player, as anyone who has heard his many Shrapnel solo albums can attest to, but here he sounds as if he is being held back, as to not rain on Don’s parade. He does manage to get in some meaty guitar riffs on tunes like ”Sunless Days” and the heavy “Magic Road”, but solos are kept to a minimum to make way for the great melodies. In that lies the strength of Long Way Home. Songs such as “Little Girl”, “You”, and “There Was a Time” are as catchy and addicting as anything the band wrote in their heyday (perhaps due to the songwriting help from former Yngwie/Blue Murder vocalist Kelly Keeling) while still having a metal edge. The two ballads, “Goodbye My Friend” and “I’ve Found” are quite lovely, featuring strong vocals from Don, and the cover of the 60’s classic “Heart Full of Soul” is a lot of fun.
I think Don and the boys are heading in the right direction here, avoiding the grungey nonsense that they tried on their last few albums, and returning more to their roots. My advice for Don is to give John Norum a bit more freedom next time out. The melodies stand out and speak for themselves (as they always have with this band) but what is needed are some old fashioned guitar pyrotechnics, which Norum surely has and I’m sure is ready to display.