Entertainment » Movies

Echo In The Canyon

by Rob Lester
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Sep 19, 2019
Echo In The Canyon

The mid-1960s in (mostly) California-grown pop music: Groundbreaking songs and their creators are often lovingly labeled legendary. Fortunately, some stars are still around to provide first-hand perspective and are embraced in the documentary "Echo in the Canyon" (meaning Laurel Canyon, where many of them lived).

In significant and touching ways, we witness tale-telling and torch-passing as one generation of musicians informs the next, sharing memories and - excitingly - sometimes recording studios. The illuminating film offers snippets of vintage performance clips, recent interviews with veterans like Eric Clapton and Jackson Browne, some occasionally demonstrating guitar licks, and a bevy of younger stars singing, playing, paying homage to yesteryear's hits in respectful renditions. We rarely get more than brief bits of the live concert and studio sessions for the companion CD, but they arrive as delicious appetizers rather than frustrating teases.

Despite a casual air to some talk (thankfully absent much self-aggrandizement), the well-edited observations are emotion-packed. Jakob Dylan, interviewer/co-executive producer/lead performer, is the anchor. Although dad Bob Dylan, unseen elephant in the room, is only mentioned once in passing, perhaps it made a crucial difference that these senior stars knew they were talking to someone who "gets it" - son of a superstar who came to fame in the same decade, appreciative from that unique viewpoint, his own musical turf claimed/earned. Watching Dylan intently absorb answers, nodding, eyes aglow, is moving - electricity transferred, dots connected. Admiration is thickly in the air as he and peers like Beck, Norah Jones, Fiona Apple, and Regina Spektor imbue inherited material skillfully or discuss it, surrounded by stacks of '60s vinyl record albums, entering hallowed ground of recording studios where history and hits were made - and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas and producer Lou Adler dramatically return there. When Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys ambles into a session, it's like a giant has entered. Arguably, others are present as ghosts.

The superb David Crosby-focused documentary focused "Remember My Name" covers some of the same territory; he and former bandmates Roger McGuinn, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash are interviewed here, too. (The Byrds get much focus, with their and The Beatles' mutual admiration duly noted, corroborated by Ringo Starr.)

Whether you know much or little about this rich era, "Echo in the Canyon" is a fascinating and entertaining - and very human - visit.

"Echo in the Canyon"

ROB LESTER returns to Edge in 2019 after several years of being otherwise occupied writing and directing musical theatre shows, working as a dramaturg, arts consultant, and contributing articles and reviews to various outlets. His long-running "Sound Advice" column covering cast albums and vocal CDs has been running regularly at www.TalkinBroadway.com for almost 15 years.

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