Joel Hoekstra’s 13 - Dying to Live

Joel Hoekstra’s 13 Dying to Live cover
Joel Hoekstra’s 13
Dying to Live
Frontiers Music Srl
Joel Hoekstra’s 13 is a solo project of the former Nightranger and current Whitesnake guitarist, who’s also worked with Xmas attraction, TSO and has partaken in the Rock Of Ages show.
Frontiers obviously jumped at the chance of trying to squeeze a buck out of the current turn of events with Hoekstra joining “The Snakes” and coupled him with chiefly JSS, a man ever known to walk into studios and laying down vocals, every chance he gets and newer “sessionist” Symphony X/Adrenaline Mob singer Russell Allen, with Chloe Lowery from TSO, guesting also on vocals, as does Toby Hitchcock from Pride Of Lions. Tony Franklin of The Firm/Blue Murder fame, handles bass, Vinny Appice (Sabbath, Dio) them drums, while JH obviously the guitars. Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater/Black Country Communion & Alice Cooper fame chips in some keyboards, while Charlie Zeleny, who plays in Joe Lynn Turner band, does some extra percussion and Dave Eggar is on cello, known for his contributions to Amy Lee and Coldplay…
While it ain’t quintessentially a bad album, “Dying to Live” is not essential either. Made up of average to good but somewhat generic tunes expertly performed and sung, it doesn’t have that extra “something” and the overexposure and saturation of the public with Soto and Russel songs, SOTO and various other releases (Talisman Rarities etc) and Level 10, following a L/A last year, an Adrenaline Mob plus a new Symphony X, is not really doing any favors in terms of “making expectations” rise.
“Say Goodbye to the Sun” makes a half baked entry, while “Anymore” sounds quite alike, but with keyboards sounding more prominent through it and has a better chorus.
“Until I Left You” is more melodic and benefits from Soto’s rich timbre, but is a little too “full”… I am beginning to think that the art of songwriting relies heavily in abstraction and what you leave out…
Hoekstra supplies “Long for the Days” with a rather beautiful solo and while it’s pretty nice and I’m guessing that here both vocalist are used, Soto on backing vocals & Allen on lead, it doesn’t manage to really excel above the average of most of songs on the album.
“Scream” is a somewhat more eventful and modern sounding number that Soto makes easy work of, but again we’re talking about something that sounds quite derivative like a pastiche of a couple of “other songs” melodies.
“Never Say Never” begins with a nice little acoustic intro to go on and become one of the better songs on the album… well done, melodic and enjoyable; it allows Allen to do some melodic singing – free from all that fake bravado that he tries to project.
“Changes” is slower, more melodic, almost a ballad and while it’s chorus begins in a promising way, this “Changes – Changing Me?” lyric sounds like an extremely lame and lazy effort… It just didn’t quite sound smooth. Allen tries to make this work hard but… I’m not quite sure if it does.
“The Only Way to Go” has Soto resuming leads, although, I’m pretty sure there’s a strong “Allen” backing track in there somewhere. The bridge is nice, but overall again, close… but no cigar…
“Dying to Live” ups the speed for the most part because its solo is somewhat more laid back… but the false bravado creeps back and in the general scope of the album I hardly think it offers much in the way of being that memorable.
“Starting Again” is quite cheery and again Soto tries to make it work, but right before the solo it feels a bit too congested… it mostly it works though.
Lastly, “What We Believe” makes use of pretty much everyone and being the longest song on here, somehow it manages to avoid stagnation by going for a somewhat more Spartan approach… in places…
Hoekstra’s 13 is good, but not great and from such a rich pool of talent you’ve come to expect a lot more. It’s a little generic and not honed up to perfection, but it feels more like a collection of ideas, that sometimes tends to work and at others it doesn’t lacking the sparkle to really shine…