SCORE - 92%
The second Joel Hoekstra’s 13 album does everything a sophomore album is supposed to do. It has improved upon every aspect of the debut, which itself was already a great record. But this is even better and the pleasing aspect is it delivers improvements in all departments.
Better production, better songs, better guitar work, all delivered in a more cohesive package.
The band featured on Running Games is sensational. The great Russell Allen is the only featured vocalist, which gives the record that band feel, more so than the guest vocalists scattered across the debut. Joining in the fun is Tony Franklin (bass), Vinny Appice (drums), and Derek Sherinian (keyboards). Jeff Scott Soto lends a helping hand with background vocals.
Running Games is a heavier record, yet more melodic and more accessible thanks to some very commercial songs and Russell Allen’s perfectly attuned vocals.
To say Joel is an accomplished guitarist is an understatement, but it is still nice to hear him doing exactly what he wants in his own project, writing music and lyrics and controlling every aspect of the sound. It is clearly a labor of love, as we all know the label wouldn’t be covering all costs involved.
So Joel should be very proud of the results. There’s a nice balance between the heavy and the melody and between the pace of various tracks. 13 tracks and over an hour of music flies by in no time at all as the flow is never allowed to drag at any point.
A top class hard rock record that will further entrench Joel as one of the scene’s most respectable and reliable musicians.