Don Dokken - Solitary

Don Dokken Solitary cover
Don Dokken
Deadline Music
Having heard about DD’s misfortune of losing control of his upper limbs after a spinal surgery not going according to plan, I was surprised to hear my CIE telling me – “hey get this, a new Dokken solo album”… I thought this might be an actual proper pressing of “Solitary”, the second album Don self-released in the middle 00’s. It’s a largely acoustic affair, which has Don collaborating with an impressive array of musicians. Just gonna quickly Michael Thompson (guitar, bass), Tony Franklin (bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) some of the most impressive names involved with this project.
I’ve seen this album being often lambasted online and I can’t understand why. If you look past the name and stop to expect Dokken (the band) like material or even anything that’s similar to “Up from the Ashes”… and embrace its acoustic nature, it’s not “that” bad.
“In the Meadow” is a bluesy ballad, which got me in a similar mood as David Coverdale’s “Northwinds”, which can’t be too bad a thing. With a little of imagination and a different instrumentation, you could even imagine it being in one of the later era albums.
“I’ll Never Forget” is a another acoustic number with a darker, but slightly folk edge, complete with mandolin like undertones. I found it enjoyable.
“Where the Grass is Green” can also be found on John Norum’s “Worlds Away”. It’s not too bad, but it’s rather religious preoccupation, sort of turns me off, plus its chorus is not that good.
I am not sure about it, but I think this “proper release” contains some additional tracks... compared to the CD-R from back in the day. Actually some looking around online proved there are three extra songs, recently recorded for this “edition”.
“Jealous” is one such (and a cover too) a piano ballad, that must have been done in one take, since it’s not too edited and even the breaths can be heard. It’s actually pretty heartfelt and not a bad addition, although it’s somewhat different in terms of atmosphere to the largely guitar based material that makes up the album. Maybe tacking these “polished demo” tracks at the end might have made a bit more sense.
“Ship of Fools” sails away, without managing to create enough interest, as its chorus feels more like a bridge to a chorus that never comes.
“You Are Everything” is an acoustic idea, which could have developed in a nice rock ballad in the vein of Richard Marx, but is pretty basic here and I’m not sure, if Don’s tone is the best for something like that. A warmer, more resonant timbre, might have matched it better.
“Venice” has some twangy, country like guitars and carefree lyrics… okay, this one is a little pointless, but still, it’s interesting to get to hear a song from such a great songwriter, even one that’s more of miss, rather than a hit.
“Sarah” is a darker number, still acoustic, still basic and probably not as complete lyrically as others… actually it gets pretty electric at some point and that fragment, sounds like something that could have been used in another song… since the structure is a little all over the place.
Next is an acoustic take of Celine Dion’s mega hit “My Heart Will Go On”, which was co-written by the late James Horner for the Titanic (who’s composed a ton of soundtracks and has won an Oscar for this) and sadly died in a plane crash in 2015. He and Don were friends, so this one as well as the last track, the also Horner co-write, “All That Love Can Be” (originally done by Charlotte Church for “A Beautiful Mind”) are meant as a tribute to him. Dokken knows to avoid vocal acrobatics that might embarrass him at this age, so he masterfully ducks a few ascends and uses decent falsettos to carry him through the more difficult passages, with pride intact.
“The Tragedy” with its luscious strings and Spanish guitars might have actually benefited from a more baritone singer, but is not too bad, despite lacking a bit in terms of spirit, when a little more passion could have elevated it to quite an impressive number, but might have put it at odds with the rest of the material on offer here.
Lastly, “Someday” is a more “Beatleasque” sort of ballad, with pianos clinging along but with somewhat uninteresting chord progressions… where, it shouldn’t have been too hard to come up with something more appropriate. Actually the solo comes up with more pleasant sounds, when it comes to its choice of notes. And finally there’s some semblance of passion in Don’s delivery.
It’s a difficult album to appreciate and probably an effort of deadline scraping the bottom of the barrel for something to release, but at least, this edition might appease whatever Dokken completists might be out there more than an overpriced CD-R won at auction ever would.