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Duran Duran — Paper Gods
Genre:

Pop, Rock

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 3.0
Vibe: 3.0
Overall Rating: 3 Stars3.25

Duran Duran - Paper GodsWith their 14th studio album, Paper Gods, British superstars Duran Duran sound as fresh and inspired as ever. It’s an album that will appeal to young pop fans as much as it will strike a chord with long-time Duranies. Many journalists are already quoted referring to this being a comeback album, but those somewhat clueless writers said the same thing about the band’s last excellent album, 2010’s All You Need is Now (and this is actually their fifth studio release since 2000).

Despite the fickleness of American radio (now the world’s worst source for discovering new music), Duran Duran has endured and thrived for over three decades, and one listen to the new album’s incredible first single, “Pressure Off,” reveals why: these guys know how to write songs that are catchy, melodic, musically interesting, and non-emulative of others.

The core of the band is intact, and these guys sound truly fantastic: vocalist Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor, and drummer Roger Taylor. Andy Taylor is out again, but guitar duties on the new record were handled by a star-studded collection of players including Nile Rogers, John Frusciante, and the band’s touring guitarist (since 2006), Dom Brown. Nick Rhodes plays his ass off in particular on this record, too, and keyboard players across many genres should be mighty impressed by the chops on display here. John and Roger continue to form one of the finest and most under-appreciated rhythm sections in all of pop music.

The band doesn’t hit the ball out of the park with every song, nor every album for that matter (diehard fans know what we’re talking about), but the band deserves tons of credit because they constantly take risks, pursuing whatever they feel like sonically or style-wise. Too many older bands get stale and routine, but Duran Duran constantly embrace new influences and incorporate them into an always-evolving sound, while still remaining true to themselves. It’s a tough balance that few bands so readily achieve.

The album opens with its biggest risk-taker, a seven-minute song (the title track, no less) that might feel more at home on a prog rock album than a pop record. But it sets a great cinematic stage for the music that follows, delving into everything from modern dance pop to guitar-inspired pop to 70s pop. Sure, their new wave roots underscore a lot of the vibe, but Paper Gods never sounds dated. This is fresh stuff, and it has some fantastic gems that may take a few listens to uncover. If there’s one thing Duran Duran hasn’t yet learned, today’s young listener has a short attention span, so giving us an hour’s worth of music is both a blessing and a curse depending on your perspective.

We have two gripes: one is with Ted Jensen’s surprisingly poor mastering, which is way too low-frequency heavy, particularly compared to virtually all other Duran Duran records. Our other gripe is that there are multiple versions of the album with different bonus tracks! We opted for the Target retailer-exclusive version, where the second bonus track, “Cinderella Ride,” was especially worth getting our hands on as fans of the band’s pop/rock vibe. But Amazon has this other special edition with different bonus material. Damn. Someone please buy that one for us!

Listen to: “Pressure Off,” Sunset Garage,” “Change the Skyline”

—SK

 
Agent Fresco — Destrier
Genre:

Modern/Alt Rock, Prog Rock

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 4 Stars3.75

Agent Fresco - DestrierEvery once in a while a new band comes along and completely shatters the expectations that you’ve set for them. It’s difficult to begin listening to something new without some kind of preconceived idea of what they’re going to be because of the limited experience you may have had with the band name, their stated genre, and the album artwork (among other things). Agent Fresco is one of those bands that completely exceeded any and all expectations.

Listed on their social media as a rock band, with some alternative and progressive rock mentions thrown in here and there, Agent Fresco is much more than a simple rock band. Hailing from Reykjavík, Iceland, the group is now two full-length albums and an EP into their career, and their latest release, Destrier, is a refreshingly authentic and somewhat hard to categorize album because of the sheer originality of the music.

The compositions on the album touch a number of different genres, and there are hints of rock, jazz, pop, alternative, metal, experimental, and dance music spattered throughout. At the core it may be a rock album, but don’t expect another radio rock band that you’ve heard a thousand times before. There is no fitting way to truly categorize the band because that would be an insult to the work that went into creating such a unique record.

The production work here is pristine, and wonderfully compliments the outstanding performances from all members of the band. From the gorgeous vocal performance on “Wait For Me,” to the piano interlude on “Dark Waters,” to the progressive and ultra-heavy “Angst,” Destrier is sure to take listeners on a musical journey spanning genres and emotions. This is an album worth having, and a band worth experiencing.

Listen To: “Dark Water,” “Wait For Me,” “Bemoan,” “See Hell”

—JH

 
This Oceanic Feeling — Universal Mind
Genre:

Alt Rock, Prog Rock

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3 Stars3.38

This Oceanic Feeling - Universal MindThis Oceanic Feeling is a powerhouse trio delivering beautiful, dreamy, piano- and synth-based pop with an occasional nod to their love of melodic prog rock, but always wrapped up in the context of a short pop song. Singer Chris Braide and drummer Ash Soan were one-time bandmates with Trevor Horn, so you know they’ve got some pop smarts about them. Braide has also written and produced songs for the likes of Beyonce, Lana del Rey, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera among other, though here, you’ll get a taste of his roots and not his clients. Bassist Lee Pomeroy brings the prog chops, having played with the likes of Rick Wakeman and Steve Hackett.

Credits aside, Universal Mind is one of the most refreshingly good records we’ve heard in a long time, and it drowns in a sea of ‘80s new wave bliss fused to modern production values. Fans of Roxy Music, The Police, and Rabin-era Yes will find much to latch onto here, while young fans will just find this completely new and fresh sounding.

But it’s their influences that are part of the problem. These guys didn’t just write songs “influenced by” the classics, but they actually ripped them off a bit too much to simply pay homage. My favorite track, “Radio,” is a blatant rip-off of the Roxy Music classic, “Oh Yeah”—which also makes reference to songs playing on the radio! The Police-inspired “Logotherapy” would make you think that Sting and company just released a new song if you heard it on the radio. And the title track was built around lifting a verse right out of the Yes 90125 classic, “Our Song,” slowing it down, and writing a new song over it… and even utilizing nearly the same synth sounds that Tony Kaye used on the original!

Despite the overt influence scamming, though, the songs are very strong when taken on their own, and there’s really clever songwriting at hand, such as on the song, “I Play Debussy,” with clever lyrics like “I play Debussy at the piano, and when I feel low, I let the melancholy flow, from major to minor” while great classical piano work echoes the music.

Bottom line: hate them for so blatantly taking from their inspirations, love them for exactly the same reasons.

Listen To: “Radio,” “Put Down The Gun,” “I Play Debussy”

— SK

 
Spaghetti Eastern Music — Sketches of Spam
Genre:

Electronic... and Acoustic!

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 3.0
Vibe: 3.0
Overall Rating: 3 Stars3.25

Spaghetti Eastern Music - Sketches of SpamMy initial reaction when I found this CD placed on my desk for review was, “This cannot be serious.” Who would possibly think the name of this CD would hint to there being serious musical talent waiting to be discovered? If I weren’t an intern, this surely would have been tossed in the trash, but my editor thought I needed to hear this one. As it turns out, this CD is a wonderfully misunderstood musical journey through vastly different genres. Thus, the name may be my only criticism: go by your name, or pick a name less likely to be forgotten. The music deserves it.

Spaghetti Eastern Music is the solo project of New York based guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist, Sal Cataldi. Sketches of Spam (which I assume is variation on the title of the Miles Davis album) is a beautiful piece of music that has amazing heart-felt acoustic moments and atmospheric layers with soulful guitar solos and electronic backbones. Much of the album features industrial sounding drums contrasted with beautiful, textural parts and meaningful guitar melodies. A diverse audience will enjoy listening to this music.

A good number of the songs feature cultural influences and instruments from many different places around the world. This is something that I really thought was tastefully done, and not simply reincarnating what others have done before. Although there are a lot of really cool electronic moments and wonderful guitar playing, the best moments on this album happen to be the acoustic songs. Songs like: “A Girl Like You,” “Wild One,” “Time For Letting Go,” “Momma Called,” and “Ticket To Ride.” These songs are well-made recordings with life and space in the mixes that complement the wonderful songwriting. It’s these songs that are going to spread Sal’s message the farthest and really draw him some accolades.

Regrettably, the two very well done—but completely disparate musical elements—that comprise this record just do not complement each other. It would be far better to release the material as two separate products, one being the more electronic stuff (give that the silly pasta name) and the other being acoustic/singer-songwriter stuff that should be self-titled. Of course, this is not the first time that proper marketing consideration is completely lost upon an independent artist.

If you are into jazz, fusion, ambient electronic and Eastern-inspired music, not to mention folky singer-songwriter songs, this album is definitely something for you to check out. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Sal Cataldi.

— SJK

 
Roger O’Donnell with Julia Kent — Love and Other Tragedies
Genre:

Classical

Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 4.0
Overall Rating: 4 Stars4.0

Roger O’Donnell with Julia Kent - Love and Other TragediesBest known for his keyboard work in The Cure, Roger O’Donnell also played with classic ‘80s artists including Thompson Twins, Berlin, and The Psychadelic Furs. So we were intrigued when his publicist presented us with something different: a new album of classical piano music accompanied by renowned cellist, Julia Kent, whose name should be familiar to fans of the all-female, cello-focused alt rock group, Rasputina.

England-based O’Donnell wrote the pieces of music for piano and two to four cellos, all of which were performed by Kent in her New York City home studio. The results of this surprising collaboration are simply outstanding. This is a somber, melancholy, and moving body of work that takes you away to thoughts of cinematic grandeur.

When you need a refreshing break from the rock and pop stuff we usually talk about, this record makes one hell of an outstanding diversion, and classical music lovers will find O’Donnell’s songwriting fresh and inspiring. Cure fans be warned... this is leagues apart, yet just as mournful as any of that group’s darker songs.

— SK

 
Emerson, Lake & Palmer — Live At Montreux 1997
Genre:

Progressive Rock

Musicianship: 3.0
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 2.5
Vibe: 3.0
Overall Rating: 3 Stars3.0

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Live At Montreux 1997Here’s a new release from legendary prog rockers, ELP. This concert recording takes us back to the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1997, and the band revisits much of their most familiar, classic material on the two-CD set (there’s also a concert DVD available). The concert set list is filled with all of the classics you expect ranging from “Lucky Man” to “Tarkus” and “Fanfare for the Common Man.” The trio also included gems like “Touch & Go,” the Emerson, Lake, & Powell single which garnered them a new generation of fans in the early days of Music Television, but sadly that song’s performance was something of a disappointment.

The performances here are mostly solid (“Touch & Go” not withstanding), but overall, the set lacks any real sense of passion and energy, and despite in-ear monitoring, Greg Lake could have done a better job pitch-wise.

We watched a few of the video clips online and found that the visual experience added more to the overall listening experience, and as such, we’d recommend the DVD over the audio-only CD release. Without visuals, for example, we wouldn’t have realized that during the intro to “Lucky Man,” Greg Lake was tuning his guitar.

Live recording in 1997 wasn’t nearly as evolved as it is today with full multi-track recording off the board, and as such, there is nothing exceptional about the sound of any of the instruments these legends were playing, and there were times when Emerson’s keyboards get a little out of hand volume-wise.

The star of the set was clearly drummer Carl Palmer, the one musician of the bunch who seemed to have lost none of his chops due to age. But perhaps we’re being too critical. It’s not easy pulling off progressive rock in the power trio setting, and we still enjoyed this concert immensely. It’s just not the first ELP recording we’ll be reaching for when we want to listen to this fantastic group.

— SK

 

Spock’s Beard — The Oblivion Particle

Genre:

Progressive Rock, Melodic Rock

Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars3.63

Spock's Beard - The Oblivion ParticleAwesome! On the latest release from Spock’s Beard, it’s evident that Ted Leonard’s presence in the band for a few years now is having an impact on the songwriting. This is easily one of the band’s finest sounding albums, as the songwriting has really evolved to find a great balance between classic prog rock and melodic rock.

The band sounds invigorated, with some fantastic, shred-worthy excursions from guitarist Alan Morse and keyboardist Ryo Okumoto, who also branches out more than usual to explore new synth textures beyond his familiar mix of Hammond/Mellotron/Moog.

Bassist Dave Meros delivers his familiar, Squire/Lee-inspired melody in the rhythm section, while drummer Jimmy Keegan steps out front to sing lead vocals on what is one of the most fantastic songs this band has ever penned, the ELO/Supertramp inspired masterpiece, “Bennett Built a Time Machine.” Group harmonies are a hallmark of the band, and you’ll find plenty to sing along with on The Oblivion Particle.

Everything about this album is evolved: the songwriting, the inspired performances, and the production values. This band continues to evolve, and we love them for it. If you’ve heard the band’s name for years but didn’t know where to jump in and discover the band, this record is easily a perfect starting point to begin your journey.

Listen To: “Tides of Time,” “Bennett Built a Time Machine”

— SK

 


 
The Who — Live at Shea Stadium 1982 Blu-Ray
Genre:

Classic Rock

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars3.63

The Who - Live at Shea Stadium 1982 Blu-RayLive at Shea Stadium 1982 captures one of The Who’s final performances as a steady touring and recording group on their farewell tour in 1982. Filmed on the second night of their two-night run at Shea Stadium, the release features an impressively diverse selection from The Who’s catalogue, from mega-hits like “Baba O’Riley” to album cuts like “Sister Disco” as well as tracks from their then-new albums with drummer Kenney Jones.

As a younger fan who was relatively unaware of the fact that the band attempted to continue on after Keith Moon’s death in 1978, as well as being somewhat unfamiliar with the band’s recorded material post-Moon, I initially found this performance to be somewhat bizarre looking, as Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle’s clean cut ‘80s look and Pete Townsend’s pseudo-punk rock getup took me by surprise. This wasn’t the Who that I knew, and for many viewers, I think that will be part of the appeal of this release.

Despite this being a time of psychological turmoil for members of the band due, in part, to Moon’s death as well as overcoming substance abuse problems, here, the band succeeds in delivering an energetic and tight set. The energy and passion in their performance is unmistakable and authentic. Jones does a beautiful job taking over behind the kit, while Townsend’s guitar and Entwistle’s bass work is just as outstanding as always, and Roger Daltry delivered one of his finest recorded rock performances.

Live at Shea Stadium 1982 is a must watch for both Who fans as well as anybody with an interest in the history of classic rock.

— JH

 

 
Scorpions — Return to Forever
Genre:

Metal, Hard Rock

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.0
Overall Rating: 3 Stars3.25

Scorpions - Return to ForeverThe Scorpions’ first studio album since 2010, Return to Forever is ironically less of a return and more of a departure from the classic Scorpions sound. The band does an exceptional job at breaking expectations for what a new Scorpions album should be at this point in their career. This isn’t a collection of rehashed tracks from their glory days, and it offers plenty for both old and new fans to enjoy.

Less conventional guitar riffs and song structures paired with excellent production values makes this a record worth checking out if you’ve lost touch with the Scorpions over the years, and the only possible downside is that while much about the album deviates from the band’s classic songwriting style, the almost A-B format of high-octane riff and solo driven track and power ballad is still very much alive.

While there isn’t necessarily a bad track on the album, there isn’t too much to offer in terms of overall diversity within the record itself. That being said, if you’re looking for the classic Scorpions sound and album style with some creative new tracks that throw a wrench in their songwriting approach, Return to Forever is worth checking out.

If track one, “Going out with a Bang” was intended as an allusion to those claiming that the band is past their heyday and should hang up their hats, this album does an excellent job at proving that when their time comes they will indeed be going out with a bang. But clearly, today is not the day they’ll be leaving. This band is just getting started.

— JH

 

The Murder of My Sweet — Beth Out of Hell

Genre:

Symphonic Metal

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars3.63

The Murder of My Sweet - Beth Out of HellThis third studio album from Swedish symphonic rockers, The Murder of my Sweet, proves that the band is here to stay and ready to do some serious damage in the metal world. We’ll remind you (as we have in the past) that they’re a band for fans of Nightwish and Epica, yet they go beyond the call of duty and make a name for themselves with a distinctive songwriting style.

Beth Out of Hell as a whole is very theatrical and story driven, and the band does an excellent job of evoking a full spectrum of emotion throughout the entirety of the album. While it may be easy to hear strings and instantly compare the album to a soundtrack, there is no denying that many of the compositions carefully play on the listener’s emotions much like a meticulously crafted film score. There’s much more to this album than metal tracks set to a symphony.

While other popular symphonic metal bands may have found their “sound” and start to lack in the variety department over time, The Murder of My Sweet seem to draw from a number of different inspirations to create an album with a familiar sound but a completely different style and manner of execution than is expected.

Impeccable vocal performances soar over incredible arrangements of some truly original symphonic metal tracks, and the band manages to include a pop element that will most certainly widen the market for their music and keep these songs in the heads of their listeners.

The compositions and arrangements on the album are fantastic, and the symphonic elements blend seamlessly within the songs. Guitar work sometimes takes a backseat to the other instruments, which only makes their foreground reappearance that much more impactful. Nothing about this album feels forced, and its authenticity gives it a certain charm that sets it apart from many other albums that would claim to fit within the genre.

Listen To: “Humble Servant,” “Still,” “Means To An End”

— JH

 
House of Lords — Indestructible
Genre:

Hard Rock, Hair Metal

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 3.0
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars3.5

House of Lords - IndestructibleHouse of Lords have been around since 1987 and have gone through multiple lineup changes and breakups throughout their career. Their latest release, Indestructible, however, is a testament to the fact that the band is just that (and happily, the one constant in the band has been its stellar vocalist, James Christian)

While it may be important to consider a band’s past when examining a new release, the album could most definitely stand alone without House of Lords’ impressive credentials. This isn’t just another solid release from an existing band, but an incredibly well written, modern, hard rock album that will appeal to first-time listeners discovering the band.

The album features some truly incredible arrangements and well thought-out songs that break a lot of the conventions that certain older groups still follow. The guitar and vocal work stands out throughout the album, and it’s full of catchy riffs and chorus hooks that embody the ‘80s rock sound but give them a more modern edge—and without any of the cheese. Jimi Bell’s guitar solos on this album range from tasteful and melodic to blistering shredding that’s sure to appeal to fans of ‘80s guitar virtuoso splendor. From the lush Zeppelin-esque acoustic section of “Pillar of Salt” to the blistering neoclassical arpeggios of “Ain’t Suicidal,” this album is a real treat for guitarists.

There’s also an acute attention to detail in regards to the production of the album with respects to backing vocals, reverbs, instrument panning, pristine (and enormous) drum sounds, keyboard layering, and placement of the lead vocals in the stereo field and in the background and foreground among many other things. From major sonic choices to nuances in the guitar tone, the production quality of the album compliments the exceptional performances and songs, and the result is an album that listeners aren’t going to forget any time soon.

Listen To: “Ain’t Suicidal,” “Pillar of Salt,” “Die to Tell,” “Indestructible”

—JH

 
Five Finger Death Punch — Got Your Six
Genre:

Metal, Hard Rock

Musicianship: 3.0
Songwriting: 2.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 2.5
Overall Rating: 3 Stars2.75

Five Finger Death Punch - Got Your SixIn the past, Five Finger Death Punch have done surprisingly well for themselves in being an extremely aggressive and heavy band capable of breaking into the mainstream rock radio market. Their aptly titled sixth studio album, Got Your Six, maintains the tested Five Finger Death Punch sound, but doesn’t tread any new ground; leaving us with an album we can’t help but feel we’ve already heard.

As expected, Got Your Six does deliver in droves on the production side. Massive drums, up front vocals, and a thick, drop-tuned guitar sound contribute to the band’s unique sonic image and reminds us of why Five Finger Death Punch has had such great success. The album sounds great, and on top of that, the performances are all excellent as well. Got Your Six definitely delivers in the guitar department, with interesting riffs throughout, as well as some real moments of excellence in the guitar solos.

While Got Your Six is a solid album sonically, where it fails to deliver is in the songs themselves. With the exception of a few tracks, none of the songs are particularly catchy or memorable, which is odd for a band whose primary audience is the more mainstream rock radio market. The lyrical content feels forced in many instances, and though Five Finger Death Punch is known for their aggressive songs, exploring some of the album’s more dynamic moments even further may have helped mitigate some of the ear fatigue experienced after fifty minutes of pure adrenaline.

There are some enjoyable tracks scattered throughout the album, and devoted Five Finger Death Punch fans may very well enjoy them all, but overall, Got Your Six does little to evolve the band’s sound and doesn’t entirely deliver with the songwriting.

Listen To: “No Sudden Movement,” “Question Everything,” “I Apologize”

— JH

 
Kamelot — Haven
Genre:

Symphonic Metal

Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 4 Stars3.75

Kamelot - HavenVery often by the time a band’s eleventh studio album rolls around they’re either past their heyday and rehashing old tunes or drastically changing their sound in an effort to keep up with current trends. None of this can be said about Kamelot’s latest release, Haven. A follow-up to 2012’s Silverthorn, the album is yet another solid release and a further refinement of the sound and imagery that the band creates. This is easily the album that Kamelot fans have been waiting for since the departure of longtime vocalist, Roy Khan.

As a whole, the album is an excellent collection of songs that showcases the progression of Kamelot’s sound. The band’s beautiful visual aesthetic and dark thematic elements portrayed in their artwork and stage show are mirrored in their music, which makes for an extremely powerful and epic musical experience. Expect towering performances from vocalist Tommy Karevik as well as guitarist and founding member, Thomas Youngblood.

“Veil of Elysium” is one of the standout tracks on the album and features impeccable lead guitar work and a memorable driving chorus in 3|4 that reminds listeners exactly why Kamelot is such a powerful band. “Citizen Zero” and “Beautiful Apocalypse” brought out the darker side of the album, and the morose ballad “Under Grey Skies” features guest vocalist Charlotte Wessels of Delain, in a haunting duet that ends with the tin whistle of Nightwish’s Troy Donockley. The album also features Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy lending both clean and growling vocals to two tracks. Each track presents a new sonic element to latch onto; which on top of the incredible arrangements and performances makes the album a truly captivating experience.

The production value on Haven is extremely high, and the album sounds pristine (which is exactly what listeners have come to expect at this point in Kamelot’s career). Haven is an exceptional release and a part of the continuous evolution of the band, and it comes highly recommended for Kamelot fans as well as providing inspiration for musicians and rock producers alike.

Oh—in case you’re new to Kamelot, they are not yet another Scandinavian power/symphonic metal group. These guys actually hail from Tampa, Florida.

Listen To: “Veil of Elysium,” “Under Grey Skies,” “End of Innocence,” “Revolution”

— JH

 

Joel Hoekstra’s 13 — Dying To Live

Genre:

Progressive Rock

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars3.5

JJoel Hoekstra's 13 - Dying to Liveoel Hoekstra is a guitarist familiar to many of our readers. Well known for his work with legendary bands like Night Ranger and Foreigner, he was one of the guitarists on the hit Broadway show, Rock of Ages, and he’s also been a member of Trans Siberian Orchestra. It’s about time this amazing player put out a solo effort, and his years supporting all of those musical acts paid off in spades: this is well written, melodic hard rock that kicks ass without sounding like another ‘80s rehash.

The musicians on Dying to Live are a who’s who of greats, including vocalists Jeff Scott Soto, Russell Allen, and Chloe Lowery (TSO). Musicians supporting Joel’s fantastic electric and acoustic guitar work include drummer Vinny Appice and bassist Tony Franklin, while the guest list includes guys like keyboard player, Derek Sherinian.

The collection of songs is fresh sounding, and here on a solo album, where shred-worthy players tend to go over the top to stroke their own egos, Hoekstra continues to prove his greatness by playing in support of the songs instead of on top of them. Leads are always tasty and melodic, and his production values for everything on the record really hit the mark. If you enjoy the sound of everything from Dio to Night Ranger, with an obvious dose of Foreigner thrown in the mix, you’ll really enjoy this modern classic.

Listen To: “Until I Left You,” “Scream,” “Anymore,” “Start Again”

— SK

 

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