Reviews roundup – Joel Hoekstra vs. Third Eye Blind vs. Heylel vs. The Jokers

JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 Dying To LiveJOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13
Dying To Live
Frontiers Music srl

Joel Hoekstra has been around for a long time, as a solo performer and as guitarist with Night Ranger and the Trans Siberian Orchestra, as well as a long stint playing in the pit for the Rock of Ages show.  But despite that, and a few solo albums, he was largely unknown until he took the Ritchie Blackmore / Tommy Bolin slot alongside David Coverdale for the Whitesnake record “The Purple Album”.

And wisely enough, he (and Frontiers) have used that profile boost to get a new solo album out sharpish.  Well, I say solo, but he’s brought in Jeff Scott Soto (Journey/Yngwie Malmsteen) and Russell Allen (Adrenaline Mob/Symphony X) to take on lead vocal slots, along with a rhythm section of Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath/Dio) and Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder) on drums and bass respectively.  Thrown in some guest like Derek Sherinian and Toby Hitchcock and you’ve got an all star rock feast.

Hoever, Joel took care of the producing, writing and arranging, so it all comes to bear on his shoulders.  And he’s done a pretty good job.  It’s mainstream, eighties style, melodic hard rock, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, given his background and newly acquired fan base.

It starts off well with a powerful, hard driving tune called ‘Say Goodbye To The Sun’, all topped off with a great Russell Allen vocal.  Wisely, it’s not a million miles away from the Whitesnake sound of the last decade, so he’s went for a crowd pleasing opener.  The best of the rockers, though, is ‘Scream’, aided by some old school keyboard flourishes.  It drops in quality a bit, when the tempo slips, but ‘Long For The Days’ more than passes muster.

As you would expect from musicians of this pedigree, it sounds immaculate, and anyone who likes the later work of his parent band will not be disappointed.

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THIRD EYE BLIND DopamineTHIRD EYE BLIND
Dopamine
Mega Collider Records

Third Eye Blind passed me by.  Nineties US college / alt rock wasn’t my thing, so their brief moment in the sun escaped me.  However, they are still going, although rocked with inner turmoil and dissension.

Which is probably why it took six years for this album to appear.  But lawsuits take time, but former guitarist Tony Fredianelli will think it worth the effort, given his half a million payout.  So you would think that band leader Stephen Jenkins would be looking to vent his spleen.  Well, if he is, he’s internalising, as this is a set of mid tempo college rock tunes which could have come out anytime in the last twenty years.

So, it’s a downbeat, fairly grim record, which only goes to make the good songs sound even better.  Because if this had been an album full of ‘Shipboard Cook’, I’d have been raving about like a madman on the water.  The synth driven ‘Something in You’ is an other winner, which could win over some younger fans, but elsewhere, it just doesn’t go anywhere.

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HEYLEL FleshHEYLEL
Flesh
independent

Hot on the heels of their well received debut album, here come Portugese proggers Heylel with a follow up EP.  They claim to be alt prog with a goth twist, and that’s not actually a million miles away from the truth.

If you can imagine the Gathering mixed up with Mostly Autumn, you’d be pretty much spot on, which makes for a very enjoyable listen.  Narciso Monteiro seems to be the king of the castle, taking care of writing guitars, bass, keyboards and some Lacuna Coil type growls.  All that is counterpointed by classicaly trained Ana Batista on lead vocals.  And she is a find, with a tremendous range.

The keyboards provide the prog sound, while the guitars veer more towards the heavier side of bands like Within Temptation.  But it’s a very engaging mix, and one that people should give a listen to.  As an EP, it does its job, which is to make you want more.  And it’s a job well done.

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THE JOKERS HurricaneTHE JOKERS
Hurricane
Steamhammer / SPV

Album number three for The Jokers, and it seems them in a place, where they’ve never managed to break through to the next level.  I remember saying of their debut album, that they were “grooving away in a fine, retro blues and boogie rock style, mixing up bands like Aerosmith, AC/DC, The Mooney Suzuki and Mott The Hoople”.

But that was six years ago, and the follow up left me a bit cold, saying that “a lot of the numbers are a bit ho-hum” and that “the opening salvo of ‘Silver City’ and the title track will fool you, as they’re as good as anything the band have done.”.  So is it more of the same, or are they back in the saddle?  Well, it’s bit of both.

It is better than the last record.  That is partly down to a great, huge, production, which puts the guitars and the riffs front and centre.  Top tunes like ‘Run 4 Cover’ and ‘Hurricane’ are absolute bastards, which everyone self respecting rawk fans should hear.  But then they turn around and deliver the ballad, ‘Angel’, which is probably supposed show some new found maturity, but is just an eighties chick flick song gone wrong.  But then they come up with something like ‘She’s On Fire’ and ‘Rockerman’ to restore your faith.

Nearly but not quite, here’s hoping it’s fourth time lucky.

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