In his liner notes for Grateful--The Songs of John Bucchino, composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz writes about the first time he heard Bucchino's music some years ago. He was driving home after a benefit and had to pull his car over to the side of the road to listen, "astounded by the musical imagination, lyric invention and keyboard artistry" he was hearing. With the release of Grateful by RCA Victor, there will undoubtedly be many cars found idling on shoulders across the country. This is an extraordinary collection of songs performed by an impressive line-up of guest artists--a CD which those who crave well-crafted melodies and emotionally penetrating lyrics will definitely want to add to their collection. Alternately humorous, insightful, introspective, and sardonic, Bucchino's work is immediately accessible and lingers in one's memory days after hearing it.

The marriage of singer and song has rarely been more perfectly achieved than it is here. The disc begins with the title song, rendered with understated joy by Michael Feinstein. Previously sung beautifully by both David Campbell and Brian Lane Green on their solo CDs, "Grateful" is a singer's dream for its soaring melody and profound lyrics; Feinstein sings it with subtlety and depth in his ever-improving lyric baritone. Judy Collins wraps her distinctive voice around "Sweet Dreams"--the story of two lost souls who meet momentarily--to haunting effect. Liza Minnelli and Billy Stritch have some delicious fun with "That Smile." And Daisy Prince sings a heartfelt "It Feels Like Home" (the love song for which the late Nancy LaMott's rendition remains definitive).

As the disc continues, Jimmy Webb tells a tale of selling out in "A Powerful Man," Adam Guettel sings of feelings "Unexpressed," and Lois Sage attempts to console a child in "Temporary"--one of three songs (along with "Grateful") from Bucchino's musical Urban Myths that will make you yearn to hear the entire score. Patti LuPone sounds dreamily relaxed and, dare I say, girlish in "Dancing" (from the musical Lavender Girl). Art Garfunkel should be required to record an entire CD of Bucchino's music based on his heartbreaking rendition of "If I Ever Say I'm Over You." Andrea Marcovicci, Amanda McBroom, Ann Hampton Callaway , Bucchino himself, Brian Lane Green, and David Campbell (singing "Better Than I" from Bucchino's score for Joseph, DreamWorks' upcoming, direct-to-video sequel to The Prince of Egypt) all hit the mark with their respective contributions. And the best truly is saved for last: Kristin Chenoweth's stunning rendition of "This Moment." Bucchino's gift for simple, direct verbal and musical communication is apparent in this ballad, which allows Chenoweth's classically trained voice to take off.

A gifted songwriter on the level of James Taylor, Paul Simon, or Joni Mitchell, John Bucchino has indeed been a "well-kept secret" in the world of New York cabaret and theater for several years. With the release of Grateful, the time has come to share his songs with the world. After all, some secrets really are too good to keep.