We continue our yuletide celebration of Dokken with the 1984’s Tooth and Nail. After the tepid performance of 1983’s Breaking the Chains, Dokken found themselves in debt to the tune of a cool half-a-million, and Elektra contemplated dropping the band. Don Dokken and his management convinced the label to give the group one last shot; thus, the tenacious title.
That tenacity paid off, and is heard in every riff of Tooth and Nail. If Breaking the Chains had some gems, Tooth and Nail shines like a diamond throughout. Indeed, it’s a testament to the band’s songwriting that their third album, Under Lock and Key, would improve upon Tooth and Nail’s sonic attack.
Simply put, this album rocks, while also offering up more pop-oriented tunes. Dokken opens the album with an atmospheric instrumental opener that’s just the right length. I’m a big fan of extended instrumental introductions, so long as they lead somewhere. “Without Warning” lives up to its title, as it seamlessly, suddenly transitions into the full-frontal assault of the title track, “Tooth and Nail.”
“Tooth and Nail” is the kind of opening rocker that should start every metal album. The track is fast and fun, with an excellent, memorable chorus. Don Dokken had been working with a vocal coach in Germany, and his improved range and technique are evident on “Tooth and Nail,” as he hits a stratospheric “Straight to the top!” toward the end of the song.
There are several other standout tracks, including the power ballad “Alone Again,” a song that helped boost flagging album sales. Some listeners scoff at power ballads, but I love them if they’re executed well, with solid dynamic contrast, memorable choruses, interesting bridges, etc. “Alone Again” doesn’t quite get to the level of, say, Heart’s “Alone” by these metrics, but it’s fun to sing in your car.
For my money, though, “When Heaven Comes Down” is a solid, underappreciated rocker, one that demonstrates the strength of the backing vocals. Don’t underestimate the power of good backing vocals (see also: Michael Anthony on almost every Van Halen song).
“Bullets to Spare” and “Turn on the Action,” the album’s closer, are similarly rockin’ affairs, though I’m partial to the latter. “Bullets to Spare” is the kind of cheeky tune that makes me love the macho humor of glam metal, but “Turn on the Action” sounds like the kind of tune that could have come on the heels of “Tooth and Nail” to make for the iconic double-rocker-opener that I crave.
Ultimately, Tooth and Nail helped get the band off life-support, and set the stage for the exquisite Under Lock and Key—the subject of our the third and final album in our series A Very Dokken Christmas.