September 6, 2019

ECHO IN THE CANYON: There's Something Happening Here...
Featuring Jakob Dylan, Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, Roger McQuinn, Michelle Phillips, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Lou Adler, John Sebastian, Beck, Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, Cat Power. Directed by Andrew Slater. (83 min)

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼

The canyon in-question is Laurel Canyon, the echo being the music genre known as the California Sound, made famous by a variety of influential and legendary musicians, most of whom apparently lived within walking distance of each other.

Echo in the Canyon is part documentary, part concert film, which gives us the history of the subgenre as told by its purveyors, along with peers who admired them. With Bob’s son Jakob Dylan sort-of serving as our guide, we get first-hand stories about the music’s origins, influence and popularity. Most of the film’s focus is on The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Mamas & the Papas and, of course, The Beach Boys. Surprisingly – and somewhat conspicuously - The Doors aren’t included or even discussed (perhaps they were the “scary neighbors” of Laurel Canyon).

Though there’s plenty of vintage footage, the candid interviews are the best part of the film. These guys are now senior citizens and a few seem to have indulged in the 1960s with more enthusiasm than their contemporaries (as some of Dylan’s bemused reactions will attest). Others come-across as a little sad those days didn’t last forever (probably because most of these bands were together only a few years). David Crosby is still pretty full of himself, however, while Michelle Phillips doesn’t apparently feel any remorse over cheating on husband John Phillips with bandmate Denny Doherty...maybe because the incident inspired one of their most enduring songs.

In his spare time, David Crosby moonlights as a Build-a-Bear model.
Less interesting is the concert footage featuring several modern artists – such as Dylan, Beck, Fiona Apple and Norah Jones - paying tribute to these bands by performing some of their best-known songs. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with their renditions, they’re comparatively unremarkable, like the work of a solid cover band. I think most longtime fans of this music would prefer performances by the original artists (even if most are decades past their prime). The closest we come to that are a few scenes of Dylan jamming in the studio with Brian Wilson and Stephen Stills.

Still, Echo in the Canyon paints a vivid picture of a short-lived movement and its long-lasting impact, both musically and culturally. Though I never really cared for the California Sound, the story behind it is pretty interesting and I felt an appreciation for the influence it had on music and artists I do care about. 


No comments: