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Joel Hoekstra's 13: Dying To Live

Even with a solo career, time served in Night Ranger and Trans Siberian Orchestra, when David Coverdale announced the latest guitarist in Whitesnake was none other than Joel Hoekstra, there were a few sideways looks and whispers of "Who?". Well, having now heard the debut album, Dying To Live, from Joel Hoekstra's 13, the only question I have now, is why didn't old Cov allow his new axe slinger free reign to write an all new Whitesnake opus, rather than make his debut the slightly pointless The Purple Album?

Why? Well, put simply because Dying To Live is pretty damn phenomenal. Yes, Joel's been quite clever in recruiting two of the best vocalists in rock right now, namely Jeff Scott Soto and Russell Allen, to bring his songs to life. While asking veterans Vinny Appice (drums) and Tony Franklin (bass) to form his mighty rhythm section is a masterstroke. However what stands tallest here isn't the imperious Soto, the aggressive snarling Allen, or the pound you to within an inch of your life Appice/Franklin combo. No, it's the songs, which somehow sit confidently between Dio and Whitesnake, while adding a few little twists of early Rainbow and even a hint of Foreigner. Hoekstra states the reason behind this album, which was written before he joined the Snake and comes fully endorsed by Coverdale, was to highlight his production, writing and playing skills in melodic hard rock and kerching! It's job thoroughly done. The sound is massive without teetering into bombast, the songs bristle with intent, glisten with hooks and never dip in quality, while Hoekstra proves a fret master of the highest order. Everywhere you turn, there's a riff to catch the attention, a solo to make you nod vigorously in approval, or a hook to grab you by the neck and give you a good shake. Add in the indisputably awesome vocals from JSS and Allen and you'll have to look long and hard to find one single thing to even vaguely grumble about.

The guest list is equally impressive, keyboards coming from Derek Sherinian, backing vocals from Toby Hitchcock (I mean, backing vocals from one of the best frontmen you could hope to find? Wow!), while Chloe Lowery from TSO adds her vocal clout to Soto's on the captivating closer "What We Believe". However, as stated, it's the songs which make the lasting mark, "Say Goodbye To The Sum" a gyrating burst of staccato guitar and hypnotic drums, as Allen bites and barks, while Soto positively thrives on the romping melodic rock of "Until I Left You". That said, you really could pick out the Rainbow like "The Only Way To Go", mid paced seductress "Changes", or indeed any other of the songs on show here to illustrate just how good this album is.

Come on Mr. C, get Joel in the studio and give us a Whitesnake album that will knock us sideways. If the results are half as good as Dying To Live, then it'll be a stunner. One of the biggest and best surprises 2015 has served up!

Track Listing
1. Say Goodbye To The Sun
2. Anymore
3. Until I Left You
4. Long For The Days
5. Scream
6. Never Say Never
7. Changes
8. The Only Way To Go
9. Dying To Live
10. Start Again
11. What We Believe
12. Kill or Be Killed (Bonus Track digital download)

Added: October 5th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Joel Hoekstra online
Hits: 2594
Language: english

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Joel Hoekstra's 13: Dying To Live
Posted by Butch Jones, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-10-05 12:15:29
My Score:

Joel Hoekstra, the blond bomber guitar wizard that has lent his fretboard antics to the likes of Night Ranger, on Broadway in the play "Rock of Ages" and most recently as a member of Whitesnake, has recently released a solo record focuses on the song more than guitar solo. Featuring excellent vocal performances from Russell Allen and Jeff Scott Soto, the band is rounded out by Tony Franklin on Bass and Vinny Appice on Drums, making this backing band truly a legendary one. Dying To Live gains even more credibility and with songs with an 80's feel ranging from its heaviest in a Dio vain to it's lightest in a Bad English or Journey vibe, Dying To Live covers a wide spectrum of Hoekstra's songwriting abilities and not just his guitar playing prowess which makes this truly an album instead of a guitar showcase. Kudos to Joel Hoekstra on taking a path that most gifted guitar players of this modern day do not venture down.

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