Musical nostalgia is the theme of Echo in the Canyon, a unique concert movie/music documentary featuring Jakob Dylan (Bob’s son) interviewing the survivors of the American folk rock scene centered around LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid to late 1960s.
He chats to Crosby, Stills, and Nash; to Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas, to Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Their stories are great and the songs, from The Byrds to Buffalo Springfield and Neil Young, all sound terrific still. Dylan does a lot of nodding and not much probing and he’s an opaque figure throughout, as if reluctant to seize this opportunity, seemingly anxious to avoid all mention of his Dad. Which is fair enough, but most of these old guys clearly knew Bob and probably only showed up to this as a favour for the Dylan name.
But what does make this different is how Jakob sets about re-interpreting the songs with a new cast, duetting with chums including Regina Spektor, Beck, Cat Power, Norah Jones and Fiona Apple and then putting on a concert of cover versions, all set to a backdrop of Jacques Demy’s 1968 LA movie Modelshop, a pretentious touch I’m not sure works but of which I entirely approve.
Ultimately, I’d have liked to know more about Laurel Canyon itself. But there’s just not enough on it, no mention of the wafty Joni/Carole singer-songwriter types who are perhaps more synonymous with the place and who are represented in Lisa Cholodenko’s charming 2002 film Laurel Canyon. This music’s all very lovely but I wanted to see how the geography of a certain place at a certain time can give birth to such creativity and magic (I suspect major hallucinogenics and even more sex). But it was a scene, no doubt, and a defining one in American rock and pop, the echoes of which are still felt today, in music and in property prices. .