“ECHO IN THE CANYON”
Blu-ray; 2018; PG-13 for drug references and suggestive content; streaming via Amazon Video Prime, Apple, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: None
THIS PLEASANT music documentary, whose host is the handsome, fragile- and often bored-looking Jakob Dylan (singer/songwriter and, you know, Bob’s son), loosely revolves around a recent concert featuring some popular young performers. When not singing with them, or by himself in a recording booth, Dylan interviews a bunch of aged rock icons, all of whom spent time living in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon in the mid- to late 1960s.
The oldsters, such as Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, Eric Clapton, Michelle Phillips, Roger McGuinn, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Ringo Starr and Brian Wilson, are full of colorful and interesting anecdotes about the birth of their careers and their bands, as well as accolades for their contemporaries, many of whom they cite as inspirations or direct influences. There are plenty of entertaining archival clips of the various groups in their heyday, and even some juicy gossip.
The concert features Dylan, of course, plus Beck, Cat Power, Fiona Apple, Jade Castrinos and Regina Spektor, all singing (slightly updated) versions of hits by their above-mentioned predecessors. Norah Jones appears in a non-concert scene, joining Dylan in a duet of “Never My Love.” It’s hard to get away from the sense that “Echo in the Canyon” serves as a kind of vanity project for Dylan, since his is the most visible face and voice in the film. Someone should have told him, however, that nervously tapping his foot during interviews is not the best look for the interviewer.
It’s also hard to see the point in having these young performers re-visit the ’60s classics when, to be honest, they’re not doing much that’s new with them. A contrast to this is the “I’m Your Man” concert film, a tribute to Leonard Cohen, in which various singers perform his tunes with very noticeable stylistic and interpretive differences. There are also some rather dull sequences in “Echo” showing Dylan, Power and Spektor in someone’s living room, talking about … what was it?
And one wonders about those groundbreaking singer/songwriters who also hung out in Laurel Canyon and aren’t interviewed in the film and, in Joni Mitchell’s case, isn’t even mentioned? All that noted, “Echo in the Canyon” is a nice intro for the younger audience, as well as a fun, nostalgic trip for those of us who experienced the ’60s and the brilliant, original music that provided us with a groovy soundtrack.
This Greenwich Blu-ray looks very good, with true skin tones, plenty of fine detail and contrast, the only exception being some of the archival footage. The HD audio is excellent, with most of the music, including a lot of the archival excerpts, coming off crisp and lively. Dialogue is quite clear as well, but subtitles are available for those of us who lived through the ’60s and, heh heh, may need them.
Disappointingly, there are no extras on this disc. It would have been interesting to learn how the idea for the film, as well as the concert, came about. And, of course, it would have been great to have some more of the music!
— Peggy Earle