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A Review of the Album "Dysfunctional" by American Hard Rock Band Dokken

Ara is a Journalism graduate from California State University Northridge who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

1995 Symbolizing the Year That the Album Dysfunctional Came Out

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The Song Too High to Fly May Be One of the Few Good Things in This Album

“Dokken” is a band that has been synonymous with the American hard rock scene going as far back as the 1970’s. Their 1995 studio albums "Dysfunctional" is an album that I first and have briefly checked out over the years because of the incredible song called “Too High to Fly.” However, one song no matter how great that song is can ever define an entire album. But is the song Too High to Fly really as great as I have said it is? That’s a great question.

2 Qualities That Are Noticeable About Dysfunctional

Right away, there are two things that are really noticeable. The first quality is that the vocals of Don Dokken have more harmonies in them. The other quality is that the bass play by Jeff Pilson is more noticeable as well. The album is heavier than usual for the standards of a hard rock album but that doesn’t mean that we have a thrash metal album here, not at all. Dokken did not go the route that bands such as Judas Priest went. Dokken just got more modern and heavier.

Dysfunctional Gets Off to an Uninspiring Start Musically

However, from the beginning of the album, we hear a song that sounds like a standard hard rock song that sort of falls short of inspiring you. The song Inside Looking Out sounds like a song in which a middle aged man in Don Dokken wants to somehow show that he can sing and relive his older glory days. But I think that although he has had a good voice, in this song the harmony vocals are just okay. He is not lie Dave Mustaine trying to force the voice out of his vocal chords at least so that’s a good thing. “Hole in My Head” has some decent bass play in it and the heaviness could be a precursor to what we will hear in a little while with the song Too High to Fly.

Has Dokken Lost Their Greatness With This Album?

However, revisiting this album makes me feel on some level that Dokken should retire and make the way for newer bands to come into the scene and give it a try. Dokken was a different band in the 1980’s and I would argue that they were a better group back then. But with time, they have gotten weaker as a unit. It is a good thing that I did not buy this album back in the day when I had a chance to because something seems kind of off with this album. It does not feel like this is the Dokken that fans heard back in the day with amazing songs such as In my Dreams, Dream Warriors, or even Stop Fighting Love with that awesome acoustic beginning.

"Too High to Fly"

Too High to Fly the One Great Song

Now let’s get to the song which may be the focus of this review and that one is the one called Too High to Fly which builds up slowly after the guitar part in the beginning. The riffing is very good but the lyrics, well, they are off for this band especially. Something doesn’t make sense when you are talking about selling off your family members and then failing to save the world. Lyrically this song is a little off base. However, this is the one song in this album that has riffing strong enough to be considered a solid song in an album that is largely uninspiring.

"Dysfunctional" the Rest of the Songs

And then, musically I’m left wondering what the heck happened to Dokken as we hear an acoustic song called Nothing Left to Say. The song is an attempt to describe a song in which a person is mourning the loss of his lover or partner. “Dysfunctional” is an album that is kind of out of sorts musically and it may as well describe a band that was out of sync by this time. However, it does not seem to get that much better musically with the song Shadows of Life. Was 1995 a down year for Dokken? It sure was, and it is unfortunate that Don Dokken wasn’t involved with an album that could have at least been as good as Up From the Ashes, his 1990 solo album. “Long Way Home” is a song that I notice that Dokken tries to sound like a more modern version of Megadeth and there’s no reason for them to try and imitate Megadeth. “Sweet Chains” sounds like a modern country type of song even though Don Dokken tries to save the song by using more melodic vocals but that strategy just doesn’t work out. So far, through almost the first full listen of the album Dysfunctional, it is clear to me that Dokken fell off the greatness wagon with this album and unless my feelings about the album changes, this album will stay near the bottom as far as hard rock albums are concerned.

Final Thoughts Here

I’ve heard far better hard rock albums than this one for sure and make sure that you listen to those before you check out this one. A list of hard rock albums to check out before making the leap and listening to Dokken’s Dysfunctional album here is a brief list:

  • Pride by White Lion
  • One Size Fits All by Pink Cream 69
  • Tooth and Nail
  • Under Lock and Key
  • Back for the Attack

© 2019 Ara Vahanian