After over a decade, Dokken have returned from the wilderness with their 13th studio album. It might be unlucky for some, but the record ticks all the boxes you want from a rock record: anthemic tunes, blistering guitar solos, thrilling vocals and heavy-duty percussion.
Don Dokken's vocal isn't the screaming tour de force you remember, and nor should it be. The dude is 70 years old and few rock vocalists have the same set of pipes they did 40 years ago. If you want a vocal facsimile then put on a greatest hits record.
That said, he sounds great and he wears this album well. From the ear-grabbing opener 'Fugitive' the album has the feel of a western. This is a world-weary Don Dokken, like the Man With No Name on a long walk in the desert, he's seen it all, but he still has some fight left in him. "I'm a fugitive from life", he sings with an impassioned rasp. This is still the same full-throttle Dokken from yesteryear, it's just got a different oak-aged vibe.
'Just Like A Rose' is a stand-out soft rock ballad complete with poppy harmonies and the slight Celtic rock influence of 'Over the Mountain' are more example of the style of melodic hard rock that Dokken has always done well.
Jon Levin is Don's musical compadre. As lead guitarist for the band for the last two decades, he's followed in George Lynch's footsteps without stepping on toes. His shredding and masterful solos keep the album exciting and boost the tracks when the vocals cannot.
Bill Palmer's production gives the album a modern fuel injection engine with an 80s paint job without turning it into Spinal Tap. Dokken embraces the fact that this is the autumn years for the band and it never feels as though it's trying to relive halcyon days, and the material is stronger for it.
The album's closer 'Sante Fe' is a biographical tale of Don's LA days and his relocation to find solace. It's stripped back, raw and leaves Don nowhere to hide vocally and he nails it. His vocal is tender and haunting and it's a stunning way to close the album. Don Dokken the fugitive, the Gypsy the cowboy, the outlaw all rolled into one.
Who knows if Dokken will return from their next period of self-imposed exile. If they ride off into the sunset after this album they will have done it in a blaze of glory.