ECHO IN THE CANYON should be a delight for 60’s music fans. Those were the times, music writers and artists gathered in Laurel Canyon in California as that was where all the recording labels were. This nostalgic doc traces the stories of the music of these times while focusing on a few bands like The Byrds, The Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield (made up of Canadian Neil Young, Stephen Stills and others) and the Beach Boys.
The doc is loosely written by director Andrew Slater and Eric Barrett. The doc begins with Roger McGuinn entering a guitar/music instruments shop and playing guitar. Effortlessly. McGuinn establishes the film’s mood and is seen throughout the film.
Many of the artists of the period still living today are interviewed by singer-songwriter Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers. Rich with revealing observations and engaging anecdotes, Slater’s documentary skirts the nostalgia trap by entertainingly connecting with an impressive lineup of contemporary singer-songwriters referencing the influential ’60s pop style with their own releases.
Also on display are performances from a 2106 Los Angeles concert that Dylan headlined. The songs are performed by Dylan and his collaborators from the “Echo” album, including Beck, Regina Spektor, Cat Power and Jade Castrinos were originally written and performed by the bands like The Mamas and The Papas and the Byrds. Brief musical performances are by Wilson, Phillips and McGuinn, sometimes playing with Dylan’s band. They represent some of the film’s musical highlights.
The doc does not seem to have a clear path or aim. A few insightful information is offered like the influence of songs from one band to another. The doc calls this cross-pollination. The songs from The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ albums are supposed to have influenced The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This what Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys interviewed in the doc claims. Ringo Starr who offers his two cents worth in his interview does not refute the claim. After listening to the music one can see the reason.
The doc has an odd reference to a 60’s movie, Jacques Demy’s MODEL SHOP (in which nothing much happens), for whatever the reason I do not see.
ECHO IN THE CANYON would have created more impact if it had put those musicians in perspective to today’s music – how there music shaped music at present. As such, ECHO IN THE CANYON is too free flowing a doc that at least is still enjoyable for the excellent music and songs on display.