Echo in the Canyon (Jakob Dylan, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Michelle Phillips, Tom Petty, John Sebastian + many more) – Folk-rock music defined much of pop music after the “British Invasion” of the mid-60s. In many ways, folk-rock is uniquely American. The center of the folk-rock world was in Laurel Canyon, a section in the hills of Los Angeles not far from Beverly Hills and the Sunset Strip.
Music pioneers like the Byrds (David Crosby, Roger McGuinn most notably), The Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay), and The Mamas and the Papas (John and Michelle Phillips, Mama Cass Elliott, and Denny Doherty) settled in there along with singer-songwriters like John Sebastian, Carole King (newly arrived from New York), Jackson Browne, Graham Nash (The Hollies), Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell. Brian Wilson and the rest of the Beach Boys lived close by. Even the Beatles and Elton John visited. Laurel Canyon was like a commune for aspiring musical artists. Life was free; drugs were everywhere; and money soon became plentiful. Lou Adler became the producer and hits guru. There has never been anything like it since.
Echo in the Canyon is a combination documentary and concert video. Vintage clips of these artists are punctuated with interviews of many of these aging rock stars and even a now-deceased Tom Petty. At the center of the film is Jakob Dylan, son of Bob and lead singer and songwriter for The Wallflowers. He is the interviewer and clearly gained the trust of these sometimes-temperamental musicians.
Dylan gathered some of today’s stars, too, including Beck, Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, Jade Castrinos, and Cat Power, to examine the music of the mid-‘60s and perform covers of some of the hits of the day.
For those of us who recall the ‘60s as the decade that defined the music of our lives, Echo in the Canyon gives us a first-person account of the glory that was Laurel Canyon through interesting and candid interviews (David Crosby admits he was an a**hole). For our kids, it allows them to see some of their generation’s artists singing the songs that played in the parents’ homes.
Unusual for a documentary, Echo in the Canyon is getting a fairly wide release, having started in LA and New York but expanding to other cities this week. Its early per-screen box office results are exceptional. Look for it at your art-houses and perhaps at a few multiplexes, too. For baby boomers, it will revive memories of innocence, protest, the sexual revolution, and music that made you think and feel.