The film takes its inspiration from an unusual source: Musician Jakob Dylan and producer/record executive Andrew Slater caught a screening of Jacque Demy’s 1969 film The Model Shop, an odd, moody blend of Antonioni-style angst and LA slumming. The pair started researching Southern California’s music scene in the late 1960s, leading to a decision to call up a few performing friends (Beck, Norah Jones, Jade Castrinos, Cat Power, Regina Spektor) for an album and one-off concert of folk-rock favorites.
From that modest idea Slater and Dylan, functioning as filmmaker and interviewer respectively, have compiled a lively lesson in pop history covering a brief period in music that began sometime in 1964 when aspiring folk singer Roger McGuinn realized that the Beatles were using the same broad guitar chords and harmonies but making musical history with them, and ended three or four years later when the bands who rode the folk-rock wave started to break up, done in by ego, greed and self-indulgence. Emphasizing the songs of the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield and the Beach Boys, “Echo in the Canyon” uses a few select songs to capture the era, while letting the artists behind them (David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Michelle Phillips, Stephen Stills and Brian Wilson, with additional commentary from Ringo Starr, Tom Petty, Graham Nash and others) look back on their pasts with belated insight and few regrets.
- COURTESY OF GREENWICH ENTERTAINMENT
- Cat Power and Jakob Dylan.
In short, Echo in the Canyon hits just about all of the notes one hopes to hear in a musical documentary: Terrific performances, personal insights, a healthy dose of technical information (Lou Adler and others compare recording studios), a breezy but exhaustive sense of history, and -- not to be overlooked -- an indulgence in guitar fetishism. If you’re one of those listeners who instantly react to the sound, or even the mere mention of the 12-string Rickenbacker 360, you won’t want to miss it.