Guitarist Joel Hoekstra is set to release his 4th solo album entitled Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – Dying To Live. You may recognize Joel from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Night Ranger, both the Broadway and off-Broadway productions of Rock Of Ages as well as the motion picture, the off-Broadway production of Love, Janis, and most recently Whitesnake. His previous 3 solo albums consist of mainly instrumental material so this time around Joel enlisted a few vocalists to sing on the project. The first is Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob singer Russell Allen. Next is the omnipresent Jeff Scott Soto, a TSO bandmate of Hoekstra’s who seems to turn up on any number of projects on a yearly basis. Also included on 1 track is yet another TSO member, vocalist Chloe Lowery.
Band duties on the album are handled by Joel Hoekstra obviously on guitars as well as some vocals. The drum throne is occupied by Dio, Black Sabbath, and Heaven & Hell drummer Vinny Appice. On bass is Tony Franklin from The Firm as well as Blue Murder. Derek Sherinian from Billy Idol and formerly of Dream Theater handles the keyboards. It seems Joel was able to assemble an All-Star lineup of heavy hitters to see this project through to fruition. And they delivered an adequate, sometimes terribly adequate, melodic rock album.
Lyrically, these songs were inspired by a specific period in Joel‘s life so they are very introspective and ruminating, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but certainly may have slightly dampened the edginess and energy you would expect on a project from a guy currently in Whitesnake. My first full listen left me impressed, but subsequent listens left me simply moving on to something else. A huge issue with this album for me is that although Joel Hoekstra is an established successful guitar player, he doesn’t possess a signature sound or style. Simply put, this could be Anybody’s 13 – Dying To Live. And despite the combined experience and track records of the other players, none of them really shine or stand out on the tracks. The album opens fairly strong with a song called “Say Goodbye To The Sun” which features a decent dark guitar riff and vocalist Russell Allen certainly well within his comfort zone. From then on it slowly diminishes for several songs until a track called “Scream” picks the pace up briefly. The title track “Dying To Live” gives the impression that it wants to kick some ass but to me wasn’t given the attention it needed and it’s too deep in the track list to make an impact. To sum it up; it seems a lot of talent was wasted on this album which is a shame. The tracks have enough melody to be catchy for a moment but do not contain anything of substance to hold the listener’s attention for any longevity.