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Dokken: Hell To Pay

Bands that were once popular and now are not walk a fine line when it comes to recording new material, which is probably one reason why so many hair bands from the Eighties have faded into fuzzy history. One that has not for better or for worse is Dokken, even though the 20-year-old-plus band has had trouble towing that line in recent years. By experimenting with grunge (1997's awful Shadowlife), rotating members (only original vocalist Don Dokken, who sings in a much lower register these days, and drummer Mick Brown remain), releasing crappy live albums (2000's Live From the Sun and 2003's Japan Live '95) and abandoning its old-school glory-days sound that made hits like "In My Dreams" and "Just Got Lucky" so memorable (just listen to 2002's overly mellow Long Way Home), Dokken has tried the patience of even its staunchest supporters.

Now comes Hell to Pay, the band's best album since 1994's Dysfunctional and somewhat of a return to form. The dark undercurrent Dokken has adopted for the last decade or so remains, but it's augmented by sonic flashes of yesteryear in the fast-and-furious "Don't Bring Me Down," the catchy "Prozac Nation," the relentless "Better Off Before" and the melodic bliss of "Can You See" all featuring the fancy fretwork of new guitar wiz Jon Levin. There are still too many mid-tempo and slow songs here ("The Last Goodbye," "Escape," "I Surrender," "Letter To Home") all unfortunately hampered by the fact that none of them rival the intensity of "Alone Again" or "Walk Away." That said, one of the best songs on Hell to Pay is a touching, low-key ballad called "Care For You," perhaps the softest song Dokken has ever recorded. (You can hear an even more sedate, piano-and-strings-enhanced version of the track on the unplugged bonus song.)

Hell to Pay certainly isn't Dokken's best album, but it's the band's finest work in a decade and may even help fans forgive and try to forget past grievances.

Track Listing:
1) The Last Goodbye
2) Don't Bring Me Down
3) Escape
4) Haunted
5) Prozac Nation
6) Care For You
7) Better Off Before
8) Still I'm Sad
9) I Surrender
10) Letter To Home
11) Can You see
12) Care For You (Unplugged)
Total Time: 48:22

Added: June 22nd 2004
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Dokken Web Site
Hits: 3123
Language: english

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