After Pavarotti and opera, and Wild Rose and country, the next logical step is to rock in Echo In The Canyon. Did you know that the Beatles‘ favorite band was The Byrds? Or, that the Beatles were so enamored with Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys that it inspired Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? As a tutorial on music in Laurel Canyon from 1965 to 1967, Echo In The Canyon is top-notch. Every generation thinks their sound is the best, but it is hard to top The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Beach Boys, and The Mamas and The Papas. Sadly, of the three movies listed above, it is the weakest, not in its music, but in its presentation. I give the flick 3 Gavels and it receives a 93% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 91% Audience score.
Jakob Dylan (son of Bob Dylan) decides to put on a tribute to the Laurel Canyon scene. Interviewing members of the above groups, he tries to learn how the California Sound became so influential. Interspersed among the talks, he and other younger talent perform the songs of the 1960’s. Among other tidbits, find out why David Crosby was kicked out of The Byrds. Learn the story behind Go Where You Wanna Go by The Mamas and The Papas and much, much more.
Of course, there are not actors in a documentary. Jakob Dylan doesn’t have the raspy voice of his father, neither does he have the chops of a superstar. His attempts to emulate these great songs, even with help of others, is just sad. One would not expect a singer to be a great interviewer, although he does have his moments. However, at times, it feels like old men reminiscing. Ouch! Brian Wilson, Eric Clapton, and Tom Petty do liven things up a bit.
Due to its limited focus of 1965 to 1967, other than Michelle Phillips, women are mostly non-existent. A further valid complaint is that it spent too much time on The Beatles and The Beach Boys, if this was to be a Laurel Canyon story. Still, there is no doubt that the close proximity of these musicians, neighborhood drop-ins if you will, created an environment of creativity. Each wanted to top the other. Stealing was bad, but mimicking was a tribute. Jakob Dylan, try as he might, falls short in this tribute. And that, with this music, was difficult to do.