Album review: JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 – Running Games

JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 – Running Games

Frontiers [Release date 12.02.21]

Joel Hoekstra, best known as the current guitarist for Whitesnake and Trans-Siberian Orchestra (and previously as a member of Night Ranger and the Broadway show Rock of Ages), returns with album number two from his solo project, Joel Hoekstra’s 13.

Joel Hoekstra once again handles the bulk of the production, songwriting and music. However, unlike the debut album which featured a number of guest vocalists this time Symphony X’s Russell Allen is the sole singer, with Jeff Scott Soto helping out on backing vocals (he did sing lead on some of the debut album’s songs). Rounding out the line-up are Tony Franklin (bass), Vinny Appice (drums) and Derek Sherinian (keyboards).

With such a stellar line-up and a decent debut album from 13, expectations are rightly set high. Hoekstra and his fellow musicians deliver, with plenty of fine vocal performances from Russell Allen as you’d expect, notably on the showstopper that is ‘How Do You’. Also Derek Sherinian lets loose on a few snazzy keyboard solos throughout the course of the album.

Joel Hoekstra’s time in Whitesnake shows on ‘Heart Attack’, a song you could imagine David Coverdale enjoying singing. ‘Lonely Days’ is one of those floor filling anthems, with a great riff and instant chorus (strengthened by Jeff Scott Soto’s vocal input).

There are a couple of fillers like ‘Fantasy’ which is melodic hard rock by numbers, but even this one is no clunker thanks to the vocals of Russell Allen.

The title track is thoughtfully positioned at the end of the album as it is unlike the rest of the album. An acoustic number with nimble acoustic playing by Hoekstra, also featuring the legendary Lenny Castro on percussion, it is a real surprise and makes for a rewarding end to the album.

The good thing about Joel Hoekstra’s writing is that he focuses on the melody. For sure there are plenty of guitar solos scattered throughout the album, but never OTT or there for the sake of it.

It was 2015 when the debut album from this project came out and let’s hope we don’t have to wait another six years for album number three! Classy melodic hard rock, nothing more, nothing less. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie

The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 21 November. Next session 12 December. The video above was a Halloween Special, streamed 31 October.

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From 1 December the Featured Albums and Power Play segments will reflect those artists and tracks featured during 2021.

Featured Albums w/c 15 November 2021 (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 MEMORIA AVENUE Memoria Avenue (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 FANS OF THE DARK Fans Of The Dark (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 HANNAH JAMES & TOBY KUHN Sleeping Spirals (Jigdoll Records)

Power Plays w/c 15 November 2021 (Mon-Fri)

THE FORGOTTEN Interstellar (FiXT Noir)
QUILL Riding Rainbows (indie)
DEAD REYNOLDS Uninspired (The Fort)
CAVALCADE Dreaming About (Golden Robot)
HANNAH ALDRIDGE Sinking (indie)
GREYHAVEN All Candy (Rude Records)

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