Blu-ray: Echo in the Canyon

STUDIO: Greenwich Entertainment | DIRECTOR: Andrew Slater
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 10, 2010 | PRICE: DVD $13.19, Blu-ray $22.99
SPECS: PG-13 | 89 min. | Documentary | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/LPCM 2.0

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video | Overall

A salute to the singer-songwriters who populated the Laurel Canyon community of Los Angeles, the documentary Echo in the Canyon from first-time director and music industry veteran Andrew Slater offers a mix of interviews, newer concert footage and archival material to survey the folk-rock scene of the mid-1960s and into the 1970s.

Jakob Dylan, son of Bob and leader of the group The Wallflowers, is our guide, as Slater focuses in on such groups as The Mamas and the Papas, Crosby, Still and Nash, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Byrds and The Buffalo Springfield, as well as such artists as Judy Collins, Jackson Browne, Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr and the late Tom Petty, who discusses how such music influenced his own sound.

Jakob Dylan and Tom Petty in Echo in the Canyon.

The interviews and archival stuff are interspersed with the often-aloof Dylan putting together a 2015 tribute concert to the Laurel Canyon scene with such fellow performers Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power and Regina Spektor.

The lineup in Echo in the Canyon is impressive, indeed, yet there are some missing in action presences that would definitely fill out Slater’s saga. Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Carole King (who uprooted to Laurel Canyon after her divorce from Gerry Goffin and before her landmark Tapestry album), are prominent members of that world who are given short shrift or conspicuously absent altogether.

Still, there are any number of anecdotal highlights here coming from the likes of “Mama” Michelle Phillips, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and David Crosby (separately), Byrd leader Roger McGuinn and Lovin’ Spoonful singer John Sebastian, all with some great inside stories that shed light on the creative forces working in Laurel Canyon at the time. Also noteworthy is the appearance of Brian Wilson, who discusses how the Beach Boys’ 1966 Pet Sounds was influenced by George Martin’s production on albums by the Beatles and, in turn, Wilson and company inspired The Beatles landmark Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

Those who love the era and music will enjoy the proceedings, but the documentary may have been better off not trying to “modernize” its subject with the tribute concert material and Dylan’s deadpan presence. We are, of course, well aware who his father is, but other than a few jokes regarding his old man, he doesn’t rank high on the charisma chart.

In a limited number of screens, Echo in the Canyon has strummed a solid close-to $3.4 million at the box office. With its groovy music and a cast like this, many fans are likely to get “good vibrations” by multiple plays of the title on Blu-ray and DVD.

Buy or Rent Echo in the Canyon

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.