A Song Ascending to the Pantheon?
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Every so often, a song becomes so ubiquitous on the cabaret circuit that it looms as a likely standard. The latest one to ring that bell is John Bucchino's hymnlike anthem "Grateful." A sobbingly passionate celebration of living in the moment, it declares: "It's not that I don't want a lot or hope for more, or dream of more / But giving thanks for what I've got makes me so much happier than keeping score."
Mushy? Perhaps. But its sentiments are strengthened by a strong, charging melody that pours out the lyric in a feverish rush. And on Monday evening in Manhattan at Joe's Pub, where Mr. Bucchino's songs were performed by the young Australian singer David Campbell with the composer at the piano, "Grateful" worked its magic. Mr. Bucchino also put the song in a theatrical context, explaining that it is sung by a dying AIDS patient to his lover in a recently completed musical called "Urban Legends." The concert, the first of three Monday evening performances by Mr. Campbell and Mr. Bucchino, concentrated heavily on material from the show. The lighter numbers included "My Alligator and Me," a boy's whimsical fantasy of having a pet alligator, and "Tease Me," the rock-and-roll-flavored tale of a girl in the 1960's whose permanently sprayed and unwashed beehive haircut becomes a nesting ground for deadly spiders.
The show revealed Mr. Bucchino to be a versatile composer rooted in 1970's folk-pop with aspirations toward art song. His sentimental lyrics, which owe much in spirit to Oscar Hammerstein 2d, tend to spell everything out in greeting-card verses. But Mr. Campbell did them proud, delivering them with a bursting, boyish enthusiasm that recalled Kenny Loggins, shaded with echoes of Johnny Mathis and Peter Allen.