They say if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there.
Echo in the Canyon, the enchanting new film by Andrew Slater, thankfully skirts any potential memory lapses. Instead, it gathers expert witnesses of the flower power generation to assemble a musical love letter for a scene that no longer exists.
The “Canyon” in question – Los Angeles’ legendary Laurel Canyon – is the mountainous, winding neighbourhood nestled atop the Hollywood Hills. As it so happens, at one time it also housed the who’s who of rock and roll royalty.
Zeroing-in on those seminal years between 1965 to 1967, Jacob Dylan (son of Bob) serves as the film’s present-day guide, interviewing many surviving Canyon luminaries: From Jackson Browne and David Crosby to Michelle Phillips and Brian Wilson.
However, topping them by sheer emotional poignancy comes from the late, great Tom Petty. Filmed inside a Rickenbacker guitar store, the Florida native gleefully recounts the influence the artists from the fabled scene had on him and his legendary career.
Besides the incredible interviews, along with vintage footage and photos, Slater’s crew simultaneously intertwines a 2015 tribute concert and studio performances including the likes of super-fans Beck, Regina Spektor, Cat Power, and Jade Castrinos.
Running the risk of overstuffing the film, the cinematic balancing act of talking heads combined with concert footage works for the most part. So much so that even when forced scenes of Dylan and said contemporaries discussing Laurel Canyon’s legacy feels a smidgeon awkward, there’s an undeniable charm that shines through.
By keeping things tuneful and touching, Echo in the Canyon is like the documentary equivalent to one of the classic albums from Laurel Canyon’s heyday. Imparting a contact high of peace and love, it not only makes you want to revisit the music from the film, but more importantly, to take a holiday to see it yourself. Luckily, with this film, you’re offered the definitive trip.