There was something in the water in Laurel Canyon. This area in California is one that hosted many great musical acts, especially during the sixties and seventies. Echo in the Canyon is a documentary that examines this free-wheeling period but only scratches the surface of the time’s divine light.
Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers) is a big part of this film. He is the narrator and interviewer while record label luminary, Andrew Slater is the director. As Jakob is Bob Dylan’s son, he is granted access to some big name interviewees: Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson, Eric Clapton and Tom Petty (in the latter’s final interview). They offer some great anecdotes but nothing is particularly revelatory.
Former Canyon natives also appear like: Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) and Michelle Phillips (The Mamas & The Papas). Sadly there are a few omissions from this story, as Joni Mitchell is completely absent. The Doors, Love and The Eagles also fail to get a mention (granted, the latter fall into the seventies). Instead, there’s a lot of discussion about the cross-pollination of sounds across the Atlantic between The Beach Boys and The Beatles.
A big part of this film chronicles a 2015 concert where Jakob Dylan paired up with contemporaries: Beck, Cat Power, Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple. They perform covers of the Canyon’s songs including big hits like “California Dreamin’” plus some more obscure album tracks. While it is great to hear this amazing music influencing younger fans, this means screen time is taken away from the story’s actual players. In fact, if you want a more in-depth look and analysis at Laurel Canyon proper, you’d be better off watching the documentary series called “Laurel Canyon.”
Echo in the Canyon packs a lot into its slim runtime. It includes good anecdotes from some of music’s most thoughtful and colourful raconteurs as well as old clips to take you back down memory lane. As a quick and fleeting dash into at these sounds it is a decent-enough primer, but fans will be craving something more. Echo in the Canyon is reverential and respectful but it only features a shadow of this period’s greatness.
TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE).
Echo in the Canyon is available now on demand through various streaming services, including Google Play and Apple TV.