Echo in the Canyon (2018)
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Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers (and Bob's son) is really the face of the film. Not only does he conduct most of the (many) interviews, he's also the driving force behind the 2015 concert at the Orpheum Theatre celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Byrds debut album ... an album we are told kicked off the fusion of folk and rock. Dylan's first interview is with the legendary Tom Petty (in one of his final interviews before suddenly passing away in 2017). The two are sitting in a guitar shop with Petty regaling the brilliance of a Rickenback, and how the music of 1965-67 influenced him as a songwriter and musician.
An aerial view of Laurel Canyon accompanies its description as the antithesis of the plastic TV world of the 1960's. It was an area that attracted bohemians - musicians, artists, and actors - and collaboration and community were the calling. Jackson Browne and Tom Petty both mention "cross-pollination" ... the "borrowing" of ideas from each other, as it's contrasted with outright theft. The concert at the Orpheum acts a bit as a framing device, and Jakob Dylan takes the lead and performs with other modern day acts such as Regina Spektor, Beck, Jade, Fiona Apple, Cat Power and Norah Jones. We cut to modern versions of the 60's classics after an interview with the original artist or clip of the original band is played. It's a way to connect the dots and show how the music still stands today.
Those interviewed include: Jackson Browne, music producer Lou Adler, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Michelle Phillips, Eric Clapton, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, and Ringo Starr. Each of these musical luminaries serves up a story or two, and takes a stab at defining the era and its influence. Roger McGuinn tells us how The Beatles influenced The Byrds, how The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" influenced "Sgt Pepper", and how so many songs and bands are interlinked. Brian Wilson is compared to both Mozart and Bach, and Eric Clapton admits to taking a bit from Buffalo Springfield.
We see and hear Brian in the studio with Jakob, as well as Clapton riffing with Stills. It's fascinating to listen as Brian explains 4 different local studios were used to cut "Good Vibrations" because of the various sounds needed. A bit of artistic lunacy? Perhaps. But it makes for a great tale. It's a bit odd to have clips of Jacques Demy's MODEL SHOP, starring Gary Lockwood and Anouk Aimee, interspersed throughout, but Dylan explains how the film inspired the concert and film. Lastly, we can't help but chuckle since even Jakob couldn't coax his notoriously reclusive father into providing even a touch of recollection for the project. "Expecting to Fly" is offered as the end of the era.
I'm tellin you... you get so sick of seeing Dylan in every frame. He is in frame during the interviews. And he consistently offers random meandering thoughts on the Laurel Canyon scene. There is no cohesion to be found whatsoever. It's a shame bc Dylan had the access but there's no focus to be found.
My only hope is that there will be a REAL documentary on the subject someday. Don't support this vanity project.
The film also shows the impact and influence that this particular music scene has had on contemporary musical artists, illustrated by renditions of many of the songs from that window in time by a particular stable of modern-day musicians at a show at Downtown LA's Orpheum Theatre in October of 2015. While I enjoyed seeing the highlights of that show in the film, it felt like they focused on that concert a little too much during the film's 90-minute runtime. There's also the not so subtle implication that these artists are the direct descendants of that culture and should be revered accordingly. While I like many of the artists depicted on-screen, the impact of the music made in, or inspired by, the late-1960s Laurel Canyon scene goes far beyond the indie/alt rock/pop genres. It would have been nice to have seen that acknowledged. That's my only real complaint with the film, and a relatively minor one at that.
All-in-all, I'm pleased that the filmmakers made the efforts that they did, interviewing many of the artists from that era that are still alive today, and visiting several of the recording studios that will likely be consumed in full by L.A.'s cutthroat real estate market in favor of redevelopment. When those days inevitably arrive, I'm hoping that some rich music lover(s) will have the foresight to purchase and digitally preserve them, even if they have to be relocated, or ultimately replicated, to another location...perhaps in the form of a "Music Studio Museum" in the Capitol Records Building, or in/with some other venue/institution of a similar stature, such as the Grammy Museum.
I enjoyed the film immensely and highly recommend it.
On a plus side the interviews with key players of the era are excellent but diluted by the ego of Mr. Dylan, turning up like an unwanted gatecrasher at the party.
I hope someone makes a less self-indulgent tribute to what was surely a collective seam of talent we'll never see the likes of again.
Put it this way. If you're the sort of person who believes older is always better and the sequel never equals the original, Echo In The Canyon will not change your mind.
The celebrity cast speaks for itself. There is the heartbreaking charm of Tom Petty and suprising late in life wisdom from David Crosby. But the film seems to be about a group of young performers trying to capture what it was like, based in part on the movie Model Shop. Seriously. It could be worse; someday people will study City Of Industry or Miracle Mile as realistic documents of what L.A. was like.
There are brief snippets of vintage performances and some are thrilling. Like Buffalo Springfield doing a seque from For What It's Worth to Mr. Soul. But the movie works it's way toward a tribute concert and unfortunately, none of the rehearsals or performances can match, let alone improve on, the originals. And that makes the whole thing kind of melancholy.
What a disappointment this film turned out to be. I'm a little surprised by all the rave reviews on the site - perhaps people are confusing the great music that was showcased, with a good documentary, which this was certainly not.
Point blank, this was a 90 minute exercise in false advertising. It is essentially an extended promotional video for Jakob Dylan. The interviews with music veterans, and interesting photos and bits of archival footage are great when we get to see them, but they only comprise about 30% of the whole show. The rest of the time the audience is subjected to footage Jakob Dylan in concert, Jakob Dylan in recording studios, Jacob Dylan in conversation with his music pals, and Jakob Dylan nodding along in interview clips. Basically Jakob Dylan inserts himself into virtually every frame, whilst having the humourless stony faced charisma of his old man. The songs he's playing are cover versions of classics, but I wanted to see a documentary about the creative ferment in L.A. during the mid-to-late sixties, not a movie about Jakob Dylan (who last had a hit about 25 years ago).
The musicians featured had such great stories, and I wanted MORE of them, not a concert film of Jakob Dylan and his contemporaries. Aside from Michelle Phillips, the film also pretty much ignores the female artists who were active at that time in Laurel Canyon. On a poignant note, Tom Petty is a wonderful interview subject, and watching this final footage of him made me sad that he is no longer with us.
Instead of a frustrating and annoying vanity project, someone needs to give these musicians their proper due, perhaps in a multi-part cable documentary, before they too, are gone.
For those of us married to artists, it's always fascinating to me to understand a bit more of how they think and to see what makes them tick. The interviews of the great Eric Clapton and Tom Petty made the film for me. Both of them seem to have a genuine natural kindness and wisdom that seems a part of their DNA.
I'm taking my songwriter/singer son in law tonight to see it. He knows more about the subjects of the documentary than I and he wasn't even alive then.
No, it's not comprehensive, there's likely some factual errors and it's flawed like everything else documented in media--but it's a great introduction and gives you direction if you want to learn about the artists, the time period or cultural references.
Enjoy it for what it is!
Even as a documentary it is a total flop with no merit, best forgotten immediately!
This could have been an amazing project. For me, it was just an ego trip for JD using famous bands as a backdrop.