Sweating to the Oldies

Moses Znaimer knows what Boomer sex sounds like

Sweating to the oldiesMoses Znaimer wants to get you laid. To that charitable end, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, he’s about to release Moses Presents Zoomer’s Choice: BUT I Still Believe in Love, a compilation CD  described in the case notes as, “My surefire personal selection of romantic songs & hurtin’ music guaranteed to get that special someone in the mood.” Alas, careful inspection of the jewel box, adorned with a Bryan Adams photo of the founder of MuchMusic and CityTV grinning like a feline who’s just dined on prime canary, reveals no money-back warranty.

The 12 tunes (“songs that Moses has listened to all his life … mellow, moving and meaningful, without the cynicism of much of today’s pop music,” according to the accompanying press release) are intended to appeal to those who still buy CDs, the same folks familiar with the now-alien concept of an album played in its entirety. That would also be the target audience for Znaimer’s magazine Zoomer, “Canada’s Lifestyle Magazine for Boomers,” and Toronto radio stations, the classical 96.3 FM and golden oldie hits AM 740, on which this CD will likely be in extended rotation.

BUT I Still Believe in Love, a follow-up to Znaimer’s Zoomer’s Choice classical music compilation, is intended to be aural Viagra. “This is an assist,” the 66-year-old Znaimer explains over the phone. “It’s an instrument for a would-be lover.” He’s pretty cocky his selection will work magic: “Take my advice,” he says. “I know the girls.”

The notion of a surefire shagging soundtrack is very Boomer, a demographic that pioneered the notion of The Big Chill life theme music. But the age rage of Boomer-dom is divergent enough to generate a wide spectrum of trigger tunes—it came to sexual age groping to everything from Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” to The Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to The Knack’s “My Sharona.”  The 66-year-old Znaimer digs even farther into the vault—completely bypassing the obvious Holy Trinity of panty-removers: Barry White, aka The Walrus of Love, Luther Vandross and Marvin Gaye, not to mention the late, great soul singer Teddy Pendergrass, who died in a Philadelphia hospital last Wednesday.

Znaimer’s goal is to provide a backdrop classical music lovers can relate to. “I asked, ‘For someone who likes the complexity of classical music, what would they like on the pop side?’ And I knew intuitively because I was talking about myself.”

That’s also very Boomer. So is Znaimer’s contempt for much contemporary music. No Kelis’s “Milkshake” for him: “It’s appallingly cynical,” he says. “The sentiments are and the words are and that must have a coarsening effect—most of the time you can’t make the words out anyway. The music is angry, it’s relentless.” His selection, which ranges from Nat King Cole to Leonard Cohen, is far more refined: “This you can make out the words and the words were sweat over.”

The cerebral entrepreneur is known for his visionary moxy, a quality that apparently extends to the boudoir: the song order is strategic, he says, intended to ebb and flow, and, well, you get the drift. He explains: “You begin with the elation and then you get into the grind which may sometimes—not in my world—lead to break ups, crack-ups, jagged or otherwise and finally you come out the other end.” He hopes people play the CD in its entirety: “I could wax generally on this theme—the disintermediation of collections because the digital world lets you get just the thing you want at this moment.”

The CD unfurls at a leisurely pace. If Znaimer is fearing lawsuits for inducing heart-attack-triggering exertion, he need not. Nat King Cole kicks off proceedings with the tender ballad, “Stardust,” then Percy Sledge weighs in with his fabulously anguished, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” followed by Billie Holiday’s “My Man.” Then, a segue into sad hurtin’ music destined to get listeners most in the mood for a Kleenex or even a Xanax. There’s a lot of sobbing going on: Serena Ryder’s “My Heart Cries Out For You,” Johnnie Ray’s 1951 “Cry,” Julie London’s “Cry Me a River,” and Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” a song that refuses to get old.

The next selections—Gilles Vigneault’s “Pendant que…”  and Cohen’s poignant “Dance Me to the End of Love” (an AM 740 fave)—provide a “fool proof” one-two punch, Znaimer vows. By Track 10, Jane Birkin’s and Serge Gainsbourg’s breathy “Je t’aime…Moi ne plus” famously recorded in bed, the listeners should be tucked in too. But then comes a choice so delightfully weird seems like a cosmic joke: Peggy Lee’s 1969 hit “Is That All There Is?” A classic it might be, but as a line it’s a coital deal-breaker. But Znaimer finds the song “cynically optimistic” and a “perfect antidote” to the over-the-top “Je t’aime.”

“Do you remember her line from the song: I thought I’d die, but I didn’t?” he asks. “That’s so adult; that’s so brilliant. It’s wry and clever.” That it is. But if this is what Boomer sex sounds like, maybe they’d be better off reading a magazine or listening to the radio.

(For a selection of alternative “top 10 songs to have sex to,” click here, here and here.)