A celebration of the folk-rock-pop explosion in the West Coast in the mid-Sixties, this documentary-cum-concert movie is tailor-made for music geeks.
Said geeks will be frustrated by the narrative gaps (what, no Joni?) but charmed by subjects who seem indifferent to mansions and fast cars. Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, Roger McGuinn, Michelle Phillips, David Crosby … They sit around looking anything but fancy. Ringo Starr (there to talk about the massive impact The Beatles had on the movement) is the exception. He’s filmed standing next to an eye-wateringly expensive motor. Oh, Ringo!
Crucial to the bohemian vibe is narrator/interviewer Jakob Dylan (son of Bob). Phillips et al clearly adore him. They chat away about plagiarism and infidelity as if the camera wasn’t there.
On stage, Dylan reworks the famous songs (with the help of, among others, Fiona Apple, Beck, Jade and Cat Power). It never feels like a smug love-in. Apple and Beck, in particular, seem galvanised. They look like little kids who’ve been allowed to stay up past bedtime and want to make every second count. Also intriguing are copious snippets from 1969 movie Model Shop (Jacques Demy’s LA-set mood-piece, deemed a pretentious failure at the time and, even now, hard to track down).
Something about the inclusion of Model Shop sums up Echo in the Canyon. What Dylan and director Andrew Slater offer is personal and slightly random. Their film doesn’t quite hang together, which is exactly why it works.