Home to the beginning of some of the biggest names in music, such as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, and Buffalo Springfield, L.A.’s Laurel Canyon is the subject of Andrew Slater’s new documentary Echo in the Canyon. The film follows Jakob Dylan, son of folk music legend Bob Dylan, as he explores the Laurel Canyon scene and the ways it influenced music as we know it.
Going in, you may not have heard of Laurel Canyon, but you are sure to have heard of some of the musicians that have come out of it. It is interesting to see the trend traced through the different groups as they inspire and influence each other. Something that really stood out as interesting about the film’s story is the way in which the bands approached mimicry. They saw it as flattery, not theft — artists today could learn a lot from this approach.
The lens through which we approach the story of Laurel Canyon is a cover album being produced by Dylan and a group of other musicians with whom he is working. This perspective is interesting, as it allows a unique viewpoint on the music. Rather than simply being told about the music and the journey, we see the journey being recreated by people who are trying to pay homage to the musicians that came before.
This movie is very entertaining largely because of its rapid and effective pacing. The runtime is quite short, and the film dives deeply into four different groups, so there isn’t any time to be wasted. Once the story of one group is explored to its full extent, the movie moves on to the next group. As such, even if you aren’t a fan of one of the four groups, you don’t have to fret, as the movie won’t linger on them for too long.
The main point of this film is to pay homage to the past, and the message it has about respecting our roots is one that is quite inspiring. Even if we think that what we are doing is small and insignificant, we can have a significant impact on future generations that look back on us and what we have done. The movie also encourages you to follow your dreams and enjoy life, because if you are passionate enough about something, you will find success.
On a technical level, the film was quite strong. The different storytelling methods including archive footage, performance footage, and interviews are blended together seamlessly. One of the most admirable things about the movie is that the filmmaker removes himself from the situation, instead allowing Dylan to conduct the interviews. The interviews are very well-shot and Dylan is a compelling interviewer because of his unique connection to the story.
Of course the music also plays a large role in the success of the film. The movie feature some of the greatest songs from the four featured bands performed both by the original musicians and Dylan’s cover group. The segment involving The Beach Boys is particularly great, as it leans heavily on their well-respected album “Pet Sounds”, which is arguably one of the greatest albums to ever be released.
Echo in the Canyon was an entertaining and well-made documentary. It offers a great history lesson on old-school pop music while offering ample opportunities to listen to some excellent tunes. People who are into music surely won’t want to miss this one.
Echo in the Canyon is now playing in select theaters.