Let the Music Do the Talking

Def Leppard Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
The problem with reviewing Def Leppard albums is they are invariably compared to Pyromania or Hysteria and the chances of the stars lining up again like that are incalculable. However like Bon Jovi, the boys from Sheffield really can still write catchy songs.

The Def Lep sound has remained fairly constant helped by maintaining their original line-up minus the late Steve Clark and adding Vivian Campbell. On Sparkle Lounge, we get some decent riffs on tracks like “Go,” “Tomorrow” and “Hallucinate” and Joe Elliot’s voice doesn’t seem to be straining to hit the same notes he hit in 1983. It’s no surprise they continue to crank out albums that harken back to their early success.

Still, I wish there was a real breakout-its-gonna-be-a-hit song on Sparkle Lounge and I just don’t hear it.

Dokken Lightning Strikes Again
I haven’t heard the last few Dokken albums, so my memory of Don Dokken’s voice is probably circa Back for the Attack and that was many moons ago. So, I’m going to try and ignore how strained he sounds on several tracks and just listen to the songs as they are presented.

The absence of George Lynch is felt even though the guy from Winger does a pretty good job. To my ear, he must have listened to Dokken’s greatest hits and pulled the best riffs and started to build songs around the same tones and chords. Consequently, most of the songs contain the Dokken signature sound. “Heart to Stone” is a good example of a track that would have been perfectly fine on a Dokken record circa 1988 and “Disease” sounds 2008, yet they are back to back on the album. Easily my favorite track is “This Fire,” as it features a melodic Don Dokken vocal and cool guitar riff.

The album as a whole has all the markings of a classic Dokken record… if only it was released in 1990.

Whitesnake Good To Be Bad
David Coverdale has always been a poor man’s Robert Plant. He has the vocal chops to carry it through and the bluesy timbre to his voice to not be a copycat. He’s also worked with some amazing guitarists like Adrian Vandenberg, Steve Vai and, of course, Jimmy Page. Hey, remember when Vivian Campbell was in Whitesnake?

More of the blues-based rock is what you get with the new Whitesnake album. Guitarist Doug Aldrich riffs up on each track and Coverdale’s voice doesn’t have any trace of his advancing years. The title track has a decent hook, but doesn’t come close to “Slide It In” (which lyrically this song tries to be and more or less fails). Other strong songs include “All for Love” (even though there’s a direct riff from “Carry On My Wayward Son” right in the middle) and “A Fool in Love” (the blues-iest track on the album). “Lay Down Your Love” would be a monster hit if Led Zeppelin had decided to record it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this is a two-disc set with the second disc featuring live tracks. Having seen Whitesnake in the 80s and a year or so ago, I can attest the live tracks are an nice addition to the package even though Coverdale seems to be screaming through far too many songs. By the way, is “Burn/Strombringer” a rip off of Rainbow’s “Can’t Happen Here” or the other way around?