Tooth and Nail, Dokken was looking to further announce themselves with this third album, Under Lock and Key. In an era where hair metal was beginning to gain a greater hold of the airwaves especially with the soft rock ballads that were seeping through along with the advent of music videos, it’s interesting to find that while those kind of sounds do find a way onto this album it is not dominated by them as much as could possibly have been the case.
The opening song “Unchain the Night” has that hard hitting mid-range tempo that Dokken liked to settle into in their prime, with the solid rhythm of Mick Brown and Jeff Pilson allowing Don Dokken to showcase his great voice, backed by the harmony of Jeff and Mick, and then opens up for the smooth flowing George Lynch guitar solo that highlighted the best tracks. There’s nothing outstanding about the opening track, but it is a solid opening to the album. “The Hunter” is similarly structured and is again another wholly enjoyable song without it ever stepping out and announcing itself as an outstanding track. “In My Dreams” moves down a different track, not being the ballad type of song that is yet to come, but with a somewhat gentler and higher vocal range being used it engenders a different feel from the opening two tracks despite retaining that hard rhythm throughout. The harmony vocals are especially prevalent here rather than Don being distinctly on his own.
“Slippin’ Away” is far too much in the soft rock ballad area for my tastes. As always, I understand the need for hair metal bands to indulge themselves in these types of songs in order to draw in that part of their supporter base, but to me it just acts as a distraction to the other great material on the album. “Lightnin’ Strikes Again” picks the tempo up again nicely, with the energy in the music driven by Don’s great vocals supported by the chorus of Jeff and Mick. This leads into George’s solo punctuation which is the centrepiece, before we come to the conclusion of the song where Mick’s drumming adds to Don’s piercing high octane vocal into the finish. It’s a terrific song to finish the first side of the album.
Side Two opens with “It’s Not Love”, the tougher side of Dokken’s drawing power. The lyrics may well be about the kind of subject that rock ballads could be crafted around, but the music and attitude here ensures that this is nothing like that. A great rhythm seconded by the George Lynch guitar riff and solo, along with Don talking tough throughout makes for a song that is at the heart of Dokken’s success. Somewhat disappointingly (for me anyway) “Jaded Heart” finds its way somewhere between this kind of song and the power ballad, so although we get the tough sounding vocal in the middle of the chorus of the song, we have the cry for passion like vocal as well, while the music is designed much slower and looking more for the ballad effect than the previous song did. From here we dive back in to “Don’t Lie to Me” which is much more like the Dokken I love, with the hard riffing guitar and harmony vocals through the bridge and chorus. This is their standard go-to song, not the power ballad but not the heavier material either. And while we run a similar course with “Will the Sun Rise”, the album concludes with the upbeat and jaunty “Til the Livin’ End” which has that faster pace and Don reaching for the limit of his range.
This is an album that for me showcases the hard-working and durable side of Dokken. No song on this album will come out at you and suggest it is an ‘all-time classic’, but the album as a whole tends to work well. As the middle release of what I would consider Dokken’s highlighted triumvirate of album, bookended by Tooth and Nail and Back for the Attack, this album mightn’t be spectacular but it is still very enjoyable.
Rating: “When the lightning strikes again” 3.5/5
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