Downtime: Songs of Bob Dylan by @joan_osborne

Sublime.

I love Joan Osborne’s voice and her cover of Dylan’s Man In The Long Black Coat was a high-point in her excellent debut (Relish) way back in 1995.

This album offers fresh takes on some Dylan classics. As Osborne says in this Rolling Stone interview:

There were also a couple songs that we tried to do where we couldn’t really find unique arrangements. We did “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” I still enjoy singing that song and we do it live sometimes, but I didn’t feel like we were able to come up with any way to record it that would justify putting it on the record and saying, “OK, here’s a new way into this song.” So that was really kind of the criteria. It was: Is there something left to say about this song that hasn’t already been said? And if the answer was yes, then we pursued it. And if the answer was no, and we really thought that a song had been well-served by other versions, then we left it alone.

Joan Osborne’s site is here.

The album is here.

Great listening for the weekend.

Downtime: Brazil by Terry Gilliam

When Terry Gilliam’s dystopian, retro-futuristic vision first came out (in 1985), I was blown away. So much so, I watched it twice in succession, in a tiny cinema in Stratford-upon-Avon that doubled as some sort of tourist attraction during the day.

As you might expect from Gilliam, the film is a visual delight.

With strong echoes of Orwell’s 1984, its quirky humour highlights, rather than softens, the darkness of an omniscient – but woefully inefficient – bureaucracy. And like 1984, Brazil was written as a satire of its own time. Anyone who has ever argued with a “computer-says-no” bureaucrat will know this world.

The hapless dreamer of a protagonist – Sam Lowry – is played by a young Jonathan Pryce, better known these days for wily, mendacious characters like Game of Thrones’ High Sparrow and Taboo’s Sir Stuart Strange or Wolf Hall’s Cardinal Wolsey.

It is strange, bleak and beautiful.

Here’s the trailer…

And here’s Gilliam talking about the film …

Downtime: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

2075 viewed from 1966. The moon is a penal colony upon which the earth depends for food supplies, and its central supercomputer has developed consciousness.

Regularly topping lists of the best libertarian fiction, 50 years after it was written, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress wears its age well. I read it last Christmas, it was my first Heinlein book and I loved it.

The best science-fiction tackles big themes, using its blank canvas to paint familiar things in a new light. Done well, the result is anything but ponderous. You can see it in some of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is like that. It’s an engaging story that addresses libertarianism, self-determination, freedom and the mechanics of running a revolution. It has a tangy layer of cynicism, too, that leaves me pondering the real meaning of the book’s famous motif of the brass cannon (Heinlein’s original title for the book).

Widely viewed as Robert Heinlein’s  crowning glory, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is perfectly considered escapism for the summer holidays.