Released By: Frontiers Music
Release Date: October 16th 2015
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock
Joel Hoekstra – Guitars
Tony Franklin – Bass
Russell Allen – Lead Vocals/Backing Vocals
Vinny Appice – Drums
Jeff Scott Soto – Lead Vocals/Backing Vocals
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
01. Say Goodbye To The Sun
03. Until I Left You
04. Long For The Days
06. Never Say Never
08. The Only Way To Go
09. Dying To Live
10. Start Again
11. What We Believe
Life looks pretty good in the Joel Hoekstra camp these days. Having last year replaced Doug Aldrich in Whitesnake, and then laying down his wizardry on The Purple Album, he’s now about to release his fourth solo album Dying To Live. So I think it’s fair to say that the Chicago man is well entitled to wear a grin as wide as a church door. The former Nightranger guitarist took on a massive creative role in this process, by handling production duties and overseeing song arrangement. Hoekstra has worn his melodic hard rock influences firmly on his sleeve by also looking after the song writing duties.
And to help those songs come to life, he has drafted in a stunning array of musical talent. Containing a rhythm section consisting of the legendary Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio) on drums and Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder) on bass, going to work with these guys must have been an out and out joy. The supreme vocal talents of Jeff Scott Soto (Journey) and Russell Allen (Symphony X) topped off by keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Black Country Communion) complete this stellar line up.
The album introduces itself with the barbarous opener Say Goodbye To The Sun, a song you can only describe as a full force battering ram. Although Hoekstra belts out some numbing licks, Russell Allen gloriously menacing delivery totally dominates. The next few tracks are prime examples of Hoekstra’s classy writing ability. The traditional AOR tones of Until I Left You and the silky textures of Long For The Days bear all the hallmarks of classic American radio rock. But if you were ever waiting for a song with a chorus so strong it takes your breath away instantly, second track in, Anymore, will do the trick. A song dripping in melodic power, it deserves to be rampaging across the airwaves.
Many might expect this album to be predominately guitar based, but Hoekstra on this record, is clearly not interested in hogging the limelight. On Scream, Derek Sherinian gets to show off the talents that have made him one of the most sought after ivory ticklers on the planet. Allen once again performs more vocal gymnastics on the pretty standard but catchy Never Say Never, but it’s his effortless bark on the seductive tempo of Changes that keeps the blood pumping on this record. The perfectly placed rhythmic changes of title track Dying To Live give this record something completely different, with its foul mouthed tongue and extended middle finger attitude. Serious kudos must also go to Hoekstra for the astute bit of recruitment by bringing in vocalist Jeff Scott Soto. The New Yorker’s pure melodic voice adds a calming element compared to Allen’s ferocity, his performance on Start Again thoroughly justifies his appointment.
As album closers go, they don’t come as good as the stirring ballad What We Believe. I’m not normally a fan of duets, but this collaboration with Soto and Hoekstra’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra colleague Chloe Lowery is nothing short of majestic. No disrespect to Russell Allen, but his voice wouldn’t have done this song justice. The genuine chemistry between Soto and Lowery makes for compelling listening, and evidently sounds like a tune that was burning a large hole in Hoekstra’s pocket.
It would have been too easy reviewing this album to eulogize about his mesmerising guitar skills, but this record is about Joel Hoekstra the songwriter. What he has produced here will find its way into the hearts of fans across every genre of rock. And no one can deny that Mr Coverdale and Doug Aldrich penned some quality tunes, but on this evidence a Coverdale/Hoekstra writing union would be a very tasty prospect indeed.
Written by Brian Boyle