Hoekstra 13’s “Running Games” is a Breath of Fresh Air in a Stale Environment

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During a time of uncertainty and despair, one could easily say that 2020/21 will go down in history as a time that stole from all of us.

And that is certainly true, as many people have lost lives, jobs, small businesses and confidence. 

I had a hard time being positive at the beginning, in the middle, and even now with how and what the world is going to look like in the near future, but I’ve learned to try and be grateful for what I do have. 

I am healthy, I have a loving family and friends, and I live in a relatively democratic country……………………..and I am also privileged to enjoy a hobby of mine such as writing and reviewing music.  

A smile was brought to my face about a month ago when I received an advance copy of Joel Hoekstra’s Running Games; his second solo release with his side project Hoekstra 13.

As you are all aware, Joel is one of the twin attack gunslingers in Whitesnake, sharing the 6 string stage with Reb Beach. He is also a Christmas favourite entertainer with the Trans Siberian Orchestra… a show you must see. It is opera to the tune of hard rock and many of the world’s best professional musicians have had their role shaping this beast of a production.  

Running Games is the follow-up to Dying to Live and once again Joel has brought together the crème de la crème of hard rock talent.

The all-star cast consists of Russell Allen (Symphony X) on vocals, Tony Franklin (Blue Murder/The Firm) on bass, Vinnie Appice (Dio/Black Sabbath) on drums, Derek Sherinian (Sons of Apollo/Dream Theater) on keyboards and the great Jeff Scott Soto (Sons of Apollo/Yngwie Malmsteen) on backing vocals. 

 Before I describe the sound on this beast, I have to give you a formal written warning as per my lawyer.

Running Games is a very hot commodity since it actually sizzles.

Please make sure to wear oven mitts or proper PPE when handling the hard copy version.   

I have received many emails from people in hospital burn units since February 12 and it’s unfortunate that they were not warned in advance.

Now back to the Game. 

Speaking of emails; I sent out some feelers to some industry titans on what they thought of the samplers I sent them and here is just a fraction of what I got back. 

Ex Guns N Roses and current Sons of Apollo guitarist Bumblefoot says “Ahh very cool! I love this album and I love Joel. He has it all-emotion, virtuosity, identity and he’s a great songwriter, showman and all-around great dude!”

Canadian guitar master Sean Kelly (Nelly Furtado/Lee Aaron/Helix) “I had the pleasure of sharing a bill with him in Oklahoma when I was in Helix and he was in Night Ranger…he is a very friendly guy, and as we were chatting casually, he was warming up playing some of the most incredible lines….like it was nothing. I have a lot of respect for Joel and I just listened to Finish Line which you sent me at it is definitely classic melodic metal with a modern production touch, delivered with all the taste and firepower we’ve come to expect from Joel.”

Last but not least one of my personal all time favorite guitar players.

 Rik Emmett of Triumph fame had this to say “ There is an elite group of rock guitarists on the planet, a small handful of consummate professionals who can play with full mastery and technique and passion. Joel Hoekstra is one of them. He brings the added value of stage presence, charisma, and physical style-he’s the total rock God package. I’ve had the pleasure of playing on stage with him in Jimbo Peterik’s wild variety World Stage nights. I’ve seen him in a variety of roles (Night Ranger, TSO, and Whitesnake) and on his latest Finish Line, he’s a full-blown fire-breathing monster-there are arc welding sparks flying off the guitar parts on the track. He’s also very tall. He makes a Les Paul look like a ukulele, hanging’ off of him. As a shrimp, I find this very intimidating and an unfair bit of natural selection”

When you listen to the sampler or some of the cuts you can find via YouTube you will notice early on a guitar riff-oriented sound that is very melodic but metal as hell. Combined with blistering solos and acoustic versatility Running Games will please even non-metal fans. That is the brilliance of Russell and his God-perfect singing, the smooth musicianship of bass/drums/keys/backing vocals, and Hoekstra’s brilliant musical mind. 

Joel wrote this album over the course of many years and that is why it is a masterpiece. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same goes with Running Games.

Tracks to look out for are; …..Well all of them. My favourites have to be Finish Line and Reach the Sky, but there is not one song that I don’t like. Fantasy has a great feel and vibe and the list goes on. 

As a guitar player myself, I hear some of a lot of different sounds from Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Angus Young,  to John Sykes etc…..but with a truly unique Hoekstra twist.

If you are a Dream Theater, Sons of Apollo, or Symphony X fan, you will truly love this album as well.  Joel’s talent assembled brings this vibe to the table big time.

I spoke with Joel recently and he asked me to wish all of his fans in Canada and especially the Montreal Rocks readers “all the best”, and he can’t wait to see you on tour! 

Grab your copy of Running Games via Amazon, Apple, or any streaming platform you can find. Visit www.joelhoestra.com  for everything from News, Reviews, to Merchandise.

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