JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 - Running Games
February 19, 2021, a week ago
So, how’s this for a lineup: Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake) of course on guitars, Russell Allen (Symphony X) lead vocals, Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath) on drums, bassist Tony Franklin (Blue Murder), keyboard additions from Derek Sherinian (Sons Of Apollo), and Jeff Scott Soto on backing vocals. I’m sold. And you ask does it sound like other melodic hard rock from the label? No, Joel was hands on for the music and production, and it was mixed by Chris Collier not Alessandro Del Vecchio, who does a lot of work for the label.
Opener and rocker “Finish Line” sets the tone with an edgy riff, melodic verses, and a big hook for the chorus. With such pedigree did you expect any less? No, this does not sound like Whitesnake, Symphony X, Dio, Sons Of Apollo, or any of the related family tree these players come from. Hoekstra crafts songs that are pure, AOR melodic hard rock, with accents of sounds and influence from the ‘80s like for example a guitar and Dream Theater-esque keyboard solo section here. “I’m Gonna Lose It” could have been on a Praying Mantis or Tygers Of Pang Tang album, Joel just captures that magic between Survivor, Slide It In Snake, and those classy NWOBHM accenting twin leads. And I really like how Sherinian’s keyboard tone counter balances the guitars. Allen is equally a great piece to this melodic puzzle, not as smooth as the usual voice, a touch of texture and there, but still big in the base melodic tone. See “Hard To Say Goodbye” and “How Do You”. “Heart Attack” has more swagger like a little sleazy '80s glam metal, “Lonely Days” has a bit more edge to the delivery, and the bass takes over in the verses for “Reach The Sky”. “Cried Enough For You” is deceptive, part ballad with a harder prog movement into the chorus. Acoustic number “Running Games” closes the eleven songs on a mellow note.