Reviews for baby boomers that still listen to music
By Mark Fogarty
BOOMER BOX is taking a break while its author starts up a new publication for SourceMedia. But all previous columns are on archive and available for viewing by clicking here. The first reader to find a reference to the 60s band ? and the Mysterians will win a free lunch with the author and Beyonce (assuming I can convince her).
Belting It Out of the Park
Theresa Sareo has recorded a career song with the title track of her latest CD, Alive Again.
A career song is similar to a signature song but is even weightier. A signature song doesn’t have to be great; it just has to be yours. “That’s Amore” is a signature song but not, to my taste anyway, a great song. A career song is when all the stars line up. It’s a great song, a great arrangement, a perfect vocal performance, and that signature something that makes a song a singer’s own. There is no need to ever cover a career song, because it has been done to a Platonic ideal.
Are you with me here? You can have more than one career song, but it’s not easy, and most singers don’t have any. Sinatra had multiple career songs, but I think of the category mainly as diva star turns. Vanessa Williams had one, with “Save the Best for Last.” Streisand, with “The Way We Were.” (Note to Babs, a New York City diva I do have a critical word to say to: got to work on that audience patter! Don’t tell your fans to go #$%@ themselves!) Toni Braxton—can you imagine anyone ever doing a better job on “Unbreak My Heart?” No. Career song for her.
Same with Theresa Sareo, a warm-voiced New York City belter who puts “Alive Again” into the stratosphere with an expansive, soulful recitation of the joys of returning to life after a terrible calamity. There is passion, conviction, assertion, relief—a big tent of feelings put over in a forthright and sincere celebration stitched onto a parading pop arrangement.
I’m going to give Sareo the courtesy of considering her strictly as a singer first, before talking about what inspired her to sing “Alive Again.” She’s a great, big-voiced singer who I imagine could hit the back wall of any venue in the world with her voice. I haven’t seen her perform but with her live voice and energetic arrangements I’ll bet she puts on a smashing show.
After listening to her latest CD, also called Alive Again, I got the urge to give Sareo some career advice, and a chance meeting with her gave me the opportunity to give it to her. It’s this: record in Nashville. Those folks know what to do with big-tent woman singers: push the faders all the way up until they can hear you in Anchorage. Seriously, I’ll bet a Nashville producer would nod his head up and down after listening to this CD and think, I could work with this, I know how to present a voice like this.
Besides “Alive Again,” the CD (www.theresasareo.com) has another couple of notable songs: the insanely hooky “Get Over Yourself “ and a smart cover of the old Bread tune “It Don’t Matter to Me,” which was voted the Number One Adult Contemporary performance for 2006 in the indie NYC New Century Peoples’ Choice Awards.
If you’re thinking the name is familiar, you may have seen Theresa Sareo on Larry King Live, talking about a dreadful accident that put her into a coma and caused one of her legs to be amputated. Since that accident four years ago, Theresa Sareo has not only worked successfully to resume her singing career but has also been a tireless motivational speaker and an outspoken advocate for people with similar handicaps.
So, Alive Again is not just her latest CD (her earlier ones are called Theresa Sareo and Embrace) but a personal triumph for Sareo as well. But here’s the great thing. You don’t need to know a single thing about Sareo’s personal life to enjoy this record and say to yourself, wow, listen to this voice!
I did get a chance to sit down with her for a formal (or informal) interview. Sareo has a striking look and energy about her in person that her photos don’t quite catch. We compared notes on the first songs we ever heard and the first records we ever bought (“In the Ghetto” by Elvis and “The Best of My Love” by the Eagles, respectively, for her, Bible songs and “Happy Together” by The Turtles for me) and I heard about her musical resume, listening as an adolescent to Elton John, the Doobie Brothers, Streisand, Linda Ronstadt and others to stimulate her imagination about what life might be like in other places than upstate New York.
After starting to perform in high school and doing some musical theatre, Sareo came to New York to pursue a musician’s life. She started writing songs with other musicians while in various rock bands, and credits her cousin Tony as a big influence on her writing. Working with other New York singer-songwriters in a group called Cosmic Jug also helped her hone her skills.
After her accident, resuming her music career was one of the biggest things that helped her recover from the shock and trauma of the event. She had just started work on her current CD, and in fact, “Alive Again” was the first song she did after resuming work on the record. Sareo credits her many years of strengthening her diaphragm through singing and her own tradition of physical fitness with helping her restore the body strength it takes to propel a voice like hers out into the universe.
What’s next for this engaging and inspirational performer? She is still promoting Alive Again in original appearances, but also does cover music and frequent motivational work. Theresa Sareo is next performing Dec. 9 at Il Fiume Italian Ristorante, the Bronx, speaking at NYU Medical Center Dec. 12, and performing Dec. 17 at the Starving Artist Café and Gallery, City Island and Dec. 26 at Bubble Lounge in Manhattan.