Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – Dying To Live
Reviewer – Aaron Chatfield
Current Whitesnake axe-man, Joel Hoekstra is one of those guys that has an undeniable aura of rock star around him. Best known for his tenure with US rock powerhouse, Night Ranger, he’s has a number of solo albums under his belt as well as guest appearances for artists such as Jeff Scott Soto.
Dying to Live rides the coat tails of his current success in Whitesnake and is ideally times to take advantage of that new exposure. Not surprising, as Frontiers appear to know exactly what the melodic rock marketplace are searching for every time.
Joining Hoekstra is the awesome drummer, Vinnie Appice and ex-Blue Murder bassist, Tony Franklin. That some power-trio right there. Topping that off is a dual vocal approach from Symphony X pipesmith, Russell Allen and one of the best known voices in melodic rock, Jeff Scott Soto. There is a host of special guests including keyboards from Derek Sherinian and backing vocals from Toby Hitchcock
From the get go, this album rocks. ‘Say Goodbye To The Sun’, comes blasting out of the speakers, flexing it’s rock muscles and pushing it’s way to the bar. Allen is on the mic for this one and he is in exceptional form. If you missed his solo album, Atomic Soul, then you should pick it up. Despite being known for his prog-metal roots in Symphony X, he has a wonderful rock voice, rich, melodic and big. Hoekstra delivers a blazing solo, full of flash. Great opener.
‘Anymore’ is a little more melodic and a little less bombastic. Some great keyboard embellishments and a wonderful chorus drive this along. A cracker.
Jeff Scott Soto takes over the vocal duties for ‘Until I Left You’ and the track suits him perfectly, sounding like it could have been lifted from a JSS solo album. It’s a good track, taking the album down a notch on the heaviness scale.
‘Long For The Days’, slows us down a again, building through a chugging survivor-esque verse in to laid back chorus, before ‘Scream’, turns up the tempo again. Jeff is back up front. It’s a fine album track, not problems, but not a standout track.
After a short classical guitar intro, ‘Never Say Never’, kicks in. Good riff and reasonable chorus. Easy to sing along too. ‘Changes’, is the albums power ballad, which is a standard affair. Jeff Scott Soto is back in fine form, reminding me of his Malmsteen days (especially in the bridge and chorus) on ‘The Only Way To Go’. It’s a well crafted song, with a wonderful acoustic middle and a big chorus.
The album title track ‘Dying To Live‘, is a rumbling beast of a track. Like a tiger hunting, the verse and bridge, stalk around the speakers, waiting for the right time to attack with a high speed chorus that takes no prisoners. Very interesting track indeed.
‘Start Again’, reminds me of Joel’s Night Ranger days. Solid melodic rock.
The standard album (there is a 12th track on the digital version) closer is a power ballad duet with JSS and fellow Trans-Siberian Orchestra singer, Chloe Lowery. You can tell these two have worked together before, their voices intertwine through the music, creating an almost hypnotic effect. The track is ambitious musically, changing tempo, dropping in acoustic and electric parts, it’s great album closer.
Joel is getting a lot of press these days and appears to be a very respected musician amongst his peers, which he is wholly deserving of. This album has clearly been a work of passion for him and the final product is a quality release. My only criticism, and its nit picking really, is the inclusion of two singers. I’d rather hear a single voice on the album, making it a little more cohesive from end to end, but as I say, I am just being picky, as the album is a great release.
I hope we get to hear what Joel can do with Reb Beach in Whitesnake, when not bound by the limits of Deep Purple material, because I believe he has not reached his full potential yet and has lots more to offer to rock!