REVIEW: Don Dokken – Up From the Ashes (1990)

scan_20161027DON DOKKEN – Up From the Ashes (1990 Geffen)

“The best revenge is to live well.” — Don Dokken’s liner notes.  Passive aggressive much?

Dokken imploded in 1989 not with a bang but a whimper.  Rather than remembering the live album they finished with (Beast From the East), people recall the animosity and bitter attacks in the rock press.  George Lynch and Mick Brown began Lynch Mob, while Jeff Pilson formed War & Peace. Don Dokken meanwhile was cooking up a hot new band.  The only issue was the name.  The ex-members, who owned a stake in the Dokken name, refused to let Don use it.  They also shot down the names “Dokken II” and “DKN”.  (Reportedly Dokken was told if he wanted to just use the vowels “OE” for his new band, that would be fine with the others!)  Don was understandably upset that he couldn’t use his own last name for his name, so he opted to bill himself as Don Dokken the solo artist.

His solo band was a killer.  Fresh out of Europe with a smash hit album under his belt, John Norum joined on guitar.  Billy White from the thrash metal band Watchtower was the second guitar player, giving Dokken a double guitar lineup (or three if you count Don himself).  King Diamond’s Mikkey Dee was aboard on drums, several years away from joining Motorhead (and now Scorpions).  Rounding out the band was veteran Accept bassist Peter Baltes, who played with Dokken in their earliest days.

With all this burning anger coupled with tremendous instrumental firepower, one might expect Don to come back rockin’ harder than ever.  His solo album Up From the Ashes was a down-ratchet from Dokken, slightly, with an emphasis on melodic rock.  It did however continue the core Dokken sound, with some biting and very Lynch-like guitar riffs.

Entering with the kind of jagged riffs that made Dokken famous, “Crash ‘N Burn” sounds almost exactly like Don’s old band.  Hard rock, smooth vocals, and six-string acrobatics.  There is no familiar Jeff Pilson backing vocal, but Peter Baltes and John Norum get the job done.  The incredibly impressive guitar histrionics are clearly not George Lynch, but fans will love what John and Billy White cooked up.  A strong follow-up called “1000 Miles Away” sits in a comfortable mid-tempo rock zone.  It’s not a ballad, it’s not a rocker, but it’s somewhere in between.  Hit material.  The album’s single was a track called “Mirror Mirror”, with a stuttery Van Halen riff.  The lyrics are very telling:

“Mirror mirror, on the wall,
Seven years, I survived them all,
Mirror mirror, tell me more,
If that was love, then love is war.”

Dokken had a roughly seven-year long life as a recording band, so think what you will.

A lot of Up From the Ashes fits into a nice little hard rock box, a little smoother around than edges than classic Dokken, but strong as ever.  “When Some Nights” has a similar vibe to “1000 Miles Away”, and there are many others.  No real weak songs abide within.  There are only a few that are head and shoulders standouts.  Among these is “Living a Lie”, a sharp Norum co-write with a Europe-like sound.  Also up there, “Give It Up” is a brief blast of rock.  “Stay” leans in a slightly more pop direction, successfully so.

Drony ballads are less impressive.  “When Love Finds a Fool” is fortunately the only one, which does at least boast some impressive musical contributions from all the players.  The momentum is killed by starting side two with this slow Scorpions-wannabe.  Another issue is a slightly damp production, which makes the drums sound woefully underpowered.  This is a shame since Mikkey Dee is such a drum demon.

With Up From the Ashes, Don re-established himself.  Nobody could accuse him of leaning on George Lynch.  With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, this band really should have been called Dokken.

3.5/5 stars


  1. I like that Dokken is higher up on the cover… they used a similar strategy when Towering Inferno was released- a dispute of who received top billing between Newman and McQueen. Newman was a big United Artists star, so they lifted his image slightly higher than McQueen’s. I believe they done the same with his name.

    Anyhoo, I still haven’t heard any Dokken. Shocking state of affairs! This solo albums sounds pretty good, though…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not that he’s higher up, that’s just the way it looks when I scanned the booklet. His photo is larger, though.

      I knew that about Towering Inferno. It’s become a fairly common practice now! Any time I see a big action movie poster with two stars, I always look at the way they are credited. One guy’s name may be higher…but the other guy’s face is bigger! Stuff like that.


    1. GOOD ONE! You must be a fan of Dr. Sheldon Cooper and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler Present: Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s Fun With Flags!

      You got it though, Watchtower were/are a Texas metal band and that’s where Billy came from.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember being a bit upset by the Norwegian flag beside Norum back when I bought this album. He’s Swedish, dammit, I thought. Well, he isn’t. He’s born and raised in Sweden but since his parents are Norwegian he’s got a Norwegian citizenship. Still does, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. To me, this album couldn’t hold a candle to albums like Tooth And Nail, Under Lock And Key, Back For The Attack or even Dysfunctional. But that’s just me.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Well the happy ending is that Dokken recently did a Japanese tour with the classic lineup, and things went well. Perhaps these men have all grown up now! I believe they even wrote a new song.


  2. I had such big expectations on this album when it came out but it turned out to be a big disappointment for me. I don’t think it’s bad, I had just expected more. It’s too lightweight. I mean with guys such as Norum, White and Dee in the band, this album should have been a KO but it wasn’t.
    I do like that When Love Finds A Fool ballad though. Glenn Hughes got a co-write on it and I can’t help wondering how it would have sounded with him singing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Depends on what state Glenn was in at the time. In 1990, I don’t believe he was in very good shape. But slowly getting there again.

      1994 seemed to be the year he really bounced back from the From Now On album, and in 93 he did some guest shots with George Lynch that were killer!


      1. He was in a bad shape around then. I remember him trying to get a band together with John Norum in 1988, I think. Didn’t work. Hughes was under a bad cocaine habit that almost killed him. His overweight sure didn’t help either. But he could still sing like crazy. He and Norum’s band played three songs for some TV show back then and he sounded great. But he was a hopeless case. That’s why his involvement with Black Sabbath and Gary Moore hit shit creek as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Not to mention, his credited appearance on Slip of the Tongue that you can’t really hear. When Glenn Hughes can’t be heard in a mix, there’s a reason for it…


  3. Mike,

    Funny, I’m commenting on this several years after the last comment, but I’ve been on a Dokken kick and decided to give this one a try. This is closer to classic Dokken than Lynch Mob is (I like LB quite a lot, but it doesn’t sound like Dokken) and it’s quite good. I agree with your rating. Glad I discovered this, if belatedly.

    Last year Don gave an interview to Chris Jericho in which he talked about recording this album. It certainly didn’t sound like it was rushed from him telling it. And he said it cost 800k to produce! There’s no way to spend that much on a rushed album.

    Liked by 1 person

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