Monday, January 23, 2012

"Breaking the Chains" by Dokken (1983)

File:Dokken - Breaking the Chains.jpg

View the Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

Key Tracks:
Breaking the Chains (which is awesome) and I Can't See You (which I don't particularly care for) provided top-40-friendly entry points for metal in the early eighties.  Nightrider is a great Priest-influenced heavy metal tune.  Felony and Paris Is Burning are everything you could ever hope for in up-tempo hair metal.

Obvious Filler:
None.  Even Live to Rock (Rock to Live) works within the context of the tracks, even if it is a watered down, my-girlfriend-likes-that-one way to go about it.

My Overall Rating of the Tracks Separately: Recommended Listening (3/4 stars)

Listening to "Breaking the Chains," I remember how important and oft-overlooked Dokken is to the whole hair metal uprising that happened in the mid-eighties.  Quiet Riot had opened the door for metal in the mainstream, but nobody had capitalized on it except Def Leppard.  "Breaking the Chains" came in out in late '83.  Aerosmith was lost in a drug haze.  Van Halen and Motley Crue were still trying to figure out how to work within the new market.  It would be another year before Bon Jovi or RATT released their first album.

But not Dokken.  Let me be clear, "Breaking the Chains" is first and foremost a metal album, with nods to (if not outright steals from) Deep Purple, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.  But Dokken translated it into something else. 

On "Breaking the Chains," along with Def Leppard's "Pyromania" which came out earlier that year, the template was laid for heavy pop music of the next decade or so.  Granted, there was no power ballad (and I am immensely thankful for that) to be found within the ten tracks, but Dokken landed directly on the fulcrum between what was heavy metal at the time and what the kids wanted to hear on their transistor radios and/or MTV.  Let me say this again - "Breaking the Chains" is first and foremost a metal album.  That being said, I don't know if there would have been a Bon Jovi without Dokken.  Don Dokken's Bruce-Dickensonian vocal range (along with Joe Elliott - honestly, Dokken is the American Def Leppard in my opinion, in case you hadn't gathered that already)  along George Lynch's intense channeling of Randy Rhoad's guitar brought all the underground coolness that was happening on both sides of the pond to the fore and dared and pushed anybody who came across it to try for something more.

I have little doubt that C.C. DeVille heard that extended, self-indulgent guitar solo intro on to Paris Is Burning and said to himself, "that's what I wanna do."  I also have little doubt that Bret Michaels heard the lyrics and delivery to Felony and said to himself, "that's what I wanna do."  Don't get me wrong, I love Poison, but they never came close to either one of those dreams - mostly because they're not Dokken.

So, is it an album?  Yes. All of the "albums" discussed so far have stuttered on the closure, and I am always leery of ending a record with a live track.  However, it works perfectly this time around.  Instead of winding down and giving you an out, "Breaking the Chains" ups everything a notch with Lynch's virtuoso intro to Paris Is Burning.  That concept serves as the perfect conclusion to all the grandiosity and posturing that the rest of the LP had set up so beautifully.

Up next, we stay in that pop-metal mode by delivering some Spanish Fly to all the Beautiful Girls with "Van Halen II."

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