Dysfunctional

REVIEW: Dokken – Dysfunctional (1995)

DOKKEN – Dysfunctional (1995 Columbia)

No matter how good the band may have been, when Dokken reunited for a new album in 1995, it was a no-win scenario. They always seemed to be one of those bands that critics loved to hate. I read a ridiculous review of Dysfunctional that said, “If Don Dokken fell in a forest, would he make a sound? And if he did, could they get George Lynch to solo over it for an hour?” What a stupid review.  The album deserves a lot of praise, because when Dokken did reunite, the music was as strong as ever.  They had discovered modern groove, added onto their lush harmony vocals, and it managed to sell 300,000 copies.

Dysfunctional was conceived originally as the second Don Dokken solo album, which just happened to have Mick Brown and Jeff Pilson on it. (Jeff had recently split from Dio.)  The record company persuaded Don to call up George Lynch and make it a true Dokken album.  Originally George was just supposed to come in and re-do the guitar solos, but Don wanted George’s rhythm.  That was smart.  George ended up with writing credits on most of the songs in the process.

I have to admit that when this came out, a new Dokken album was the last thing I expected to see. Deep into the grunge years, Dokken came out flying with a modern melodic hard rock record with warmth, depth and awesome production values (by Don and Michael Wagener). Raging solos, great ballads, glorious riffs, and those Dokken harmony vocals mark one of the best Dokken albums of their career.  It’s certainly lots better than the ones I’ve heard that followed it.

There are lots of highlights.  No songs suck, but some are better than others.  The best tune was the 7-minute single, “Too High to Fly”.  I don’t know who came up with the riff, whether it was Don or George, but this song kicks ass.  Jeff Pilson gets into a wicked bass groove, dominating the verses.  Don’s lead vocal is among his most impassioned and the band is smoking.  This is a shoulda-been Dokken classic.  I am given to understand that it is the only song from Dysfunctional that is still played live from time to time.

Other favourites include “Inside Looking Out”, which shares the same grooving direction.  “Long Way Home” is like classic Ye Olde Dokken and could have fit in on Back for the Attack next to “Mr. Scary”.  On the softer side, I really like the understated “Nothing Left To Say”, a classy acoustic ballad.  Jeff Pilson’s backing vocals coupled with strings create a timeless atmosphere.  Then there’s the album epic:  “The Maze”, a lush, multi-part progressive song with harmony vocals piled on top of harmony vocals.  It doesn’t get thicker than this!  The record closes on “From The Beginning”, an ELP cover and another classy acoustic song.

I don’t need to tell you how great George Lynch is.  The record company were right to get him involved.  He helped make this album really special.  And that’s not to say that “Wild” Mick Brown or Jeff Pilson don’t bring it, because both of them did and then some.  Just that George has a very unique sound.  There is only one George Lynch.

Dysfunctional is a compulsory purchase if you have ever liked Dokken. It is a shame that the title proved true. George bailed after the dismal followup album (Shadowlife) and Pilson wasn’t far behind. Sad.

4/5 stars

Nice hair, Don.