Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – “Dying To Live” (Frontiers Records)
Although brought to world wide fame last year when he became Whitesnake’s new guitarist, Joel Hoekstra has actually been around a lot longer, from being in Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra and the Broadway show Rock Of Ages – as well as putting out three solo instrumental guitar albums, which incidentally is where this project’s name comes from. Despite the instantly recognizable sounds of those aforementioned bands, “Dying To Live” has a sound of its own, and being commendably reflective of Joel Hoekstra himself as a solo artist and composer. Still, as a musician, he’s not alone and his reputation has only served to attract the finest talent from not one, but two star vocalists in Jeff Scott Soto (Journey / Yngwie Malmsteen) and Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob), as well as The Firm’s Tony Franklin on bass and legendary Vinnie Appice on drums. Together they produce a melodic hard rock album that at one end can hugely rock like Dio era Sabbath while elsewhere produces the sultry guitar rock of Foreigner – genius in combination! That said, Hoekstra once again shows his backbone by resisting the obvious temptation for any concept or epic style to the album – this is a to the point punchy and catchy rock album in every aspect as he intended it, lyrically focusing on over coming life’s obstacles and challenges. Opening with ‘Say Goodbye To The Sun’ it’s Dio all the way thanks to Allen’s vocals with heaps of heavy, chugging riffs, catchy breaks and tight, racy solos backed by Appice’s pounding drums, while ‘Start Again’ has a prog feel thanks to Derek Sherinian’s (Dream Theater) keyboards that soon gives way to a hugely uplifting Journey type track thanks to Sotos vocals making it an anthemic wonder. With all the songs having winning choruses I’m guessing this is where Hoekstra either starts his writing or focuses his efforts – either way, it works hugely!! With Soto’s vocals taking a Coverdale type style on ‘Scream’, it kinda brings it all together on this chugging hard rock track that has the sex, fire and plenty of swanky style emblazoned all over it to certainly make you scream in passion, completed by heaps of 70s style keyboards and Blackmore induced guitar solos that will have you remembering that chorus long into the night. Joel Hoekstra. Remember that name!