Monday, June 30, 2014


Australian singer and actor David Campbell burst onto the New York City cabaret scene around 1997, releasing two solo cds back to back, performing at the infamous club Rainbow and Stars and followed this with roles in the City Center Encores production of Babes in Arms and the Off Broadway premiere of Stephen Sondheim's Saturday Night.

I've posted my review of one of his recordings "On Broadway" before but of note is that on one of his first cds, "Taking the Wheel" he recorded some songs by another up and coming performer at that time, the composer John Bucchino.  While Bucchino has had success as a composer of musicals, including making it to Broadway with his score for A Catered Affair in 2008, his songs have been a staple of cabaret singers for over twenty years now.  Bucchino also wrote the songs for the animated film Joseph: King of Dreams and Campbell provided the singing voice for the title character.  So these two men have formed a friendship that has lasted for close to twenty years, and it's nice that they have finally come together to record an entire album of Campbell singing Bucchino songs.  The title of the album? - a fitting David Campbell Sings John Bucchino.

Bucchino's lyrics tell stories or express emotions in a succinct way with well crafted words and rich imagery and his music never overclouds the lyrics, somehow equally serving them and elevating them so each of his songs becomes something greater than just the sum of the music and lyrics alone.  His songs are so good that it's understandable why they have been performed and recorded by many Broadway and cabaret A-listers.  In fact two of his songs, "Grateful" and "Sweet Dreams" - both present on this recording - have become concert staples for Brian Stokes Mitchell and Barbara Cook.  Campbell's warm, strong voice and clear diction not only shows off his range and musical skill but naturally gets to the emotion and feeling beneath Bucchino's lyrics.  Bucchino plays the piano for all of the tracks and is naturally adept at delivering superb renditions of each of his songs.

The cd begins with the simple playing of a few notes on the piano from Bucchino of the deeply emotional song "Sweet Dreams" that tells the story of a kept gay man and a battered woman who meet in a bus station and discover they are both trying to run away from their pasts, only to find that the dreams they have of a sweeter life are elusive. Campbell's vocals, especially his heartfelt delivery of the lyrics "run away to another skin, a tough one, a pretty one, that won't let the sadness in, won't let the madness win" is wrenching.

"Something Spontaneous" has some witty lyric work from Bucchino in this fairly simple yet winning song about people being too serious, planned and structured to not allow any chance at humor or spontaneity.  Campbell has no problem in navigating around the tricky lyrics, including my favorite "we'll have a talk about how we talk about how we talk too much."  "Unexpressed" - a song I first heard when Patti LuPone sang it in the late 90's - finds Campbell's rich vocals serving the lyrics about someone who has so much love, yet no one to give it to, with Campbell getting the nuance out of every one of Bucchino's lyrics.

The upbeat "Puddle of Love" nicely breaks up the heavier ballads that come before it on the cd.  Campbell's solo from Joseph: King of Dreams, "Better Than I" is a powerful soul searching song about a man at a crossroads, but knowing that someone is watching over him, with the simple yet superb lyric "If I let you reach me, will you teach me?"  "Learn How to Say Goodbye" is another song with intricate driving lyrics from Bucchino that Campbell expertly delivers.  Campbell's last sustained note is impressive.

Campbell does justice to "It Feels Like Home" - a song the late singer Nancy Lamott recorded in a superb version back in the 90's of two people in love at the beginning of a relationship that some people think wrong but find the feeling of home in the simplest of things.  Campbell's voice has a nice gritty feel on the bluesy "What You Need, " a song about loners who find that together they might be able to make it.  "If I Ever Say I'm Over You" is a fairly simple song but one with well crafted lyrics from Bucchino about s person not being able to get over someone, even though they try to say they are.

The cd ends with two songs that Campbell recorded before, back in 1997 on one of his first recordings.  And while it might seem odd to record songs that he recorded before, hearing the same songs sung almost twenty years apart, with all of the life experiences that Campbell has learned over the years, makes them very effective.  While the bouncy "Taking the Wheel" gets a nice retread it is the final song on the cd "Grateful", which interestingly enough was the first track on Campbell's "Taking the Wheel" cd, but works much better as a closing track, since it is a summation of what Campbell and Bucchino feel.  "Grateful" is a nice and fitting end to the cd with lyrics such as "but giving thanks for what I've got makes me so much happier than keeping score" with Campbell instilling each word with truth that shows how truly talented and blessed both Campell and Bucchino are.

My only complaint?  The cd only includes 11 of Bucchino's incredible songs.   Hopefully there will be a "David Campbell Sings John Bucchino - Volume II."

Commercial for the cd:

"Better Than I" from Joseph: King of Dreams -

"What You Need" -

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