Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ronnie James Dio & Dokken

Hello everyone (3 of you, at least!).

Didn't realize it had been so long since I'd written anything, so here's another post for you.

I wasn't sure what to concentrate on, so I thought I'd just try stream of consciousness and see what happens.

As you may already know, Ronnie James Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer late last year. Regardless of how you may feel about the man, this is surely a scary diagnosis for him, his family, friends and fans. The whole thing is quite a shock.

All signs from the Dio camp are that Ronnie's spirits are good and that he is responding well to chemotherapy. There is also the claim that the cancer was caught early. As much as I sincerely hope that these are accurate and honest statements, something about all of this worries me greatly: stomach cancer survival rates are somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% (for 5 year survival). In fact, in a completely unrelated report on ABC News, when speaking on the topic of stomach cancer recently, their resident medical expert Dr. Timothy Johnson stated that the odds of surviving stomach cancer are very low. Not good news at all. Now I don't know how early detection would benefit Ronnie, but it is being talked about by those close to him as a determining factor in his survival. One thing I do know is that one way of "beating" the cancer is to have some or all of the stomach removed which, I suspect, is similar to the idea of removing a lump or an entire breast in a breast cancer patient, i.e., get all the cancer cells before they spread. I'm sure Ronnie would only want portions of his internal organs removed if it meant he would survive for a long time. I can't even imagine what he must be going through!

Despite all of this scary medical talk, the early detection must be worth something because, at last check, Heaven and Hell (i.e. the Dio fronted version of Black Sabbath with Iommi, Butler, & Appice in tow) have scheduled a dozen or so summer festival dates in Europe. Now this does not sound like the action of a band with a dying man on vocals! I certainly hope this is not wishful thinking on the band's part, but I have to believe Ronnie feels good enough to perform live shows or he would not put himself, the band, and the fans in a position to be disappointed.

Losing Ronnie now would truly be tragic, and I sincerely hope that we have him for many more years to come. In spite of his 67 years, the man remains one of my heroes, not only for his truly unique voice & vocal ability, but for his undying desire to create metal music, no matter how old he gets. As long as he remains great, I see no reason for him to stop. If no one is telling McCartney, Starr, or the Stones to stop, why should they tell Ronnie, just because he sings metal? He is STILL far better than other metal singers who are "only" in their 40's or 50's. The cool thing is, just like Rob Halford's coming out of the closet years back, no one in the hard rock/heavy metal community seems to care about Ronnie's age, and I mean that in the most positive of ways (for both Rob & Ronnie); it has done nothing to diminish people's respect for him. If anything, it has caused people to gain greater respect for him. I know that's the case for me.

Let's hope RJD gives us many more years of great music to come. I, for one, am not done with him yet!

Something else that caught my eye (& ear) a couple of weeks ago about a possible Dokken reunion, that is, Don Dokken, Jeff Pilson, Mick Brown and, yes, George Lynch.

The idea for a reunion was, no doubt, sparked by recent tour dates that the current version of Dokken did with Lynch Mob (George Lynch's band) opening for them in California last month. Jeff Pilson, currently with Foreigner, even joined his former band mates on stage for a song or two.

Being a big Dokken fan, I was pretty excited about the idea of them reuniting. To me, they have always been one of the greatly underrated metal bands, mainly because of their unfortunate association with the "hair band" era of 80's metal. The reality is, although they did adopt some of the 80's look, they really were a band that was head and shoulders above their contemporaries and I feel they never got the acclaim and respect they deserved. Between Dokken's unique voice and Lynch's other-worldly playing, they were in a class by themselves but were bested in chart success by bands like Poison and Def Leppard, which is a complete joke. Just goes to show that talent is, unfortunately, only part of the equation. Still, many in-the-know agree that Dokken is one of the best bands of the metal genre and are still highly respected in the hard rock community to this day.

When asked in a recent interview if the reunion rumors were true, George Lynch confirmed that there was very serious talk of a reunion and that it would probably be happening soon. He seemed to be looking forward to the idea of working with Dokken again. Clearly, if he was able to do tour dates with Don, his arch rival in the band, there must be some positive vibes there.

When I heard that there was Youtube footage of the recent "reunion" of the guys playing a couple of tunes at the end of Dokken's set (after the current lineup played), I made a point of checking it out as soon as I could. There they were, Don, Mick (who still plays with Dokken), George, and even Jeff, who stopped by specifically to play a song or two with his old mates. It was with great anticipation that I watched the low-quality footage and they sounded great! That is, until Don started to sing. Wow, what a letdown! I was fortunate enough to see the last reunion tour, back in 1995, and they were absolutely phenomenal then but, clearly, Don's voice has gone south in a big way. Just goes to show that they should have put their differences aside years ago. Don has lost most of his upper register, most likely due to years of smoking, and the fact that he's in his 50's.

Too little, too late guys. Based on the two songs I watched, it's clear that there is no point in a Dokken reunion. Yes, they are musically very solid, and George never disappoints, but yeesh, those vocals! It's sad to see Don slogging it out in the clubs with a voice that is a shadow of its former self, but what can you do? You can't turn back time. The realist in me also knows that, as much as I love them, even if Don's voice were in top form, there's probably no real demand for a Dokken reunion in 2010. If they did a headlining tour, it would be playing to crowds of about 1,000 people at best. We're talking large clubs or, if they're lucky, small theaters.

I hate to say it, but I hope they don't put themselves through a reunion tour. I think they will be left feeling very unsatisfied, if they do. I know I would, if I went to see it.

Until next time...


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