Review: Echo in the Canyon
In the annals of rock history, Laurel Canyon is something of a mystical place. Rock n' roll's evolution from 1965 to '67 is defined by the cross-pollination of records that came out of this particular spot in California. You have The Byrds' Mr. Tamborine Man which inspires the Beatles' Rubber Soul which pushes Brian Wilson to make Pet Sounds which inspires Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Echo in the Canyon sets out to explore this amazing time in music history only to lose its way.
The main reason the film meanders too much is Jakob Dylan. Son of Bob Dylan and lead singer of The Wallflowers, Jakob is not a particularly good interviewer or guide through history. The enthusiasm he musters on screen doesn't even register on the Richter scale. He seems to have been chosen simply because he has access to so many fellow musicians, both of the time and of today.
The film's recounting of the era is intercut with the rehearsal and concert featuring Jakob, Beck, Regina Spektor, Cat Power and others playing famous tunes by the Mamas and the Papas, The Byrds, The Beach Boys and others. This proves to be an indulgence that often takes away from the more interesting accounts by the musicians of the day. Hearing from David Crosby, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr and others is just way more fun than the concert footage. It is a shame that there is so much concert footage.
There is no denying the influence the music from Laurel Canyon. Artists today like Father John Misty regularly pull from the sound of the region. There is something riveting too about hearing how one album influenced another and the general love everyone had of each other's music. Yet this gets buried as Echo in the Canyon seems in debt to Jakob Dylan and must show him performing uninspired versions of great songs.