Echo in the Canyon
Somewhere around the halfway mark of Echo in the Canyon, it becomes clear that the directorial debut of former Capitol Records CEO Andrew Slater is less a celebration of the late ‘60s Laurel Canyon music scene and more a vanity project for Wallflowers frontman Jakob Dylan.
Up to this point, the documentary features Dylan in overly stoic interviewer mode, talking with the information-rich likes of Roger McGuinn, Michelle Phillips, David Crosby, and Tom Petty against visually pleasant So. Cal. backdrops. Their recollections of iconic songs and L.A.’s inspiring artistic atmosphere are spruced up by the tunes themselves, as well as appealing archival footage and photos.
Also in the mix are insights from such younger artists as Regina Spektor, Cat Power, and Beck (looking like a wax figurine), who join Dylan in-studio to record covers of famous tracks and stand alongside him onstage during an all-star tribute concert.
Though the show’s footage is bafflingly synced with the new studio recordings instead of the performances themselves, the musicians’ reverence for the greats is frequently powerful. But as the cycle continues and it’s evident that our tour guide sings lead on every damn song, resulting in a somewhat sonically monotonous collection, one wonders why the film wasn’t titled Dylan in the Canyon.
The absence of arguably the most iconic Laurel Canyon musician and the bizarre shoehorned inclusion of another titan highlight Slater’s lack of filmmaking experience, and, totaling a mere 82 minutes, the barely feature-length project seems better suited to an accompanying DVD for Dylan’s tribute album than a theatrical experience.
Still, when the memories are flowing in sync with some of the greatest hits of the 20th century, Echo in the Canyon hits an impressive groove and is nothing less than magical.
Grade: B. Rated PG-13. Starts June 28 at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: Greenwich Entertainment)