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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
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By Doug Hammer
Label: Dreamworld Productions
Released 10/24/2011
Travels tracks
1. Travels
2. The Turn Of Time
3. Country Road
4. Maine Morning
5. Days Of Summer
6. Pendulum
7. Reflections Of A Distant Past
8. Can't Go Back
9. Moving
10. City Of Dreams
11. Outbound Train
12. The Castle
13. Lost City
14. Here With You
15. After The Storm
16. Whirling Dervish
17. Jonathan's Song
18. The Brightness Of Days
19. Travels (epilogue)
20. Moving On
21. Back In Your Arms
22. The Place We Once Knew
23. Glory Days
24. Have Faith
25. Old Piano
26. Ragtime Blues
27. Jekyll And Hyde
28. Frozen Night
29. Here At Last
30. My Heart Belongs To You
31. My Precious One
32. Thinking Of You
33. Going Home
34. It'll Be Alright
35. Stillness
36. I Am With You
37. Remembrance
38. Marching On
39. In Memory
Around the World in 88 Keys
Pianist Doug Hammer's latest work entitled Travels is a 39 song musical chronology of his life on the planet thus far. The two-disc set of mostly contemporary solo piano is divided between Travels and Travels: Detour. After listening to this monumental work I can report that it is fun both on and off the beaten path. This is not a jaunt, no day trip on a tank of gas. No, this is a life's journey to all the familiar compass points and beyond, both is body and in dreams. In the music I could hear that Doug loves to travel and he revels in all the adventures that he finds along the way, but in the end he is like Dorothy and there is no place like home. His songs are the breadcrumbs he uses to get back there time after time.

Doug Hammer is a pianist, producer and arranger who currently makes his home in Lynn, Massachusetts. He graduated from the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, the cultural center of the universe. He earned his chops in bars and hotel lobbies and introduced his first album of music, Solace in 2007. Since then he has produced two other albums of soothing music for babies and his current album. With his talented wife, Emmanuelle Le Gal, he is the co-founder of Dreamworld Productions, specializing in all kinds of media and music.

Disc 1 Travels

The first album begins with a frenetic ditty called Travels, but quickly morphs into an anthem style tune called The Turn of Time. It sounds like a musical retrospective of memories, a look back into a notebook of thoughts and discoveries made on the way of some great journey. The melody is catchy, the song somehow satisfying. And a great journey it is.

Pendulum has that jazzy Brubeckian swing to it and suggests a lot of motion. It might seem that back and forth might not get you anywhere, but the feeling in the song is one of progress, of two steps forward and only one step back for a change. Along the way there is time to browse, to take in the scenery of everyday life and appreciate it.

Sometimes a train will make a clickity clack sound as it travels over the rails. It is sometimes foreboding and sometimes hypnotic. Doug has somehow managed to get that feel in his tune Outbound Train. This is a serious tune, one that has a bit trepidation in it as the journey progresses. The fear of the unknown plays a prominent part in this song. When I close my eyes, I can hear the train whistle. Hope may be just around the next curve.

The last song on this disc is also called Travels (Epilogue) and it evokes a strong sense of melancholy. I never thought the journey would be over, but here is the end. It is the sound of unpacking a dusty suitcase, throwing the traveling shoes in the back of the closet and finding the wrinkled envelop with all the snapshots inside. It is a time for reflection.

Disc 2 Travels: Detour

Doug admits that these next twenty tracks are improvisations, quick ditties, and fragments of songs that seemed to come together on their own. Moving On became one of many favorites. It is a bit sad, but not despairingly so. It is more of a sense that I hate to go, but I must so that the journey can continue and I can find out what happens in the end.

It is dark and cold and I don’t know where I am, but the rain has just changed over to snow and I find myself a witness to a Frozen Night. The quiet and the stillness is breathtaking as my world is covered in white and before my eyes I can see everything crystallize in the distant street lights. A crust of diamonds covers everything as the rain briefly returns.

My Precious One is a children's song. There is a mixed feeling of innocence and joy within the sparkling notes of Doug's impromptu melody. There is the feeling of a little hand grasping a big finger, a smile warmed by summer sunshine and the unique sense of bliss as a child falls asleep under your tender storybook words.

The last three songs on the disc are in memoriam to a fine, unforgettable spirit. Remembrance is a song of farewell. It is probably the saddest song on the album, but not completely sad for it has glimmers of gratitude and moments of warm memories tucked lovingly in between the notes. Marching On is a dirge tinged with tenderness and finally, In Memory closes the album.

I could put these two records in the player and never have to take them off again. Doug Hammer has put together a work that seems to cover every mood, every feeling and every dream I might have. He transported me into his world of sights and more importantly, sounds that make up a life’s journey. This could be the music of anyone’s life. Put on the music, travel and dream on, but in the end, you will find yourself home again.
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 10/12/2012
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