My wife is one of those folks that needs the TV on while she falls asleep. However, specifically she needs a certain type of show in order to send her drifting into the land of Nod. It has to be something she’s not really interested in so that she will not pay attention to it, but at the same time, it also has to be something she thinks I’ll pay attention to, as to keep me in bed with her as her comforting reminder that she’s got a hubby.
Soft spoken, non action orientated stuff as well, as I don’t know if you have noticed, but despite setting a volume control for an action movie, it’s always the case that the dialogue is way too low and the gunfire/explosions way too loud, so you end up constantly changing the volume up and down to avoid my sleeping queen from stirring.
As a result, often times documentaries work well for this, as she knows I enjoy watching them, but at the same time, if its something like the latest from PBS’s Nova or the History of American Country Music, then she’s most likely going to lose interest in the first 10 minutes like a high school kid falling asleep during Chemistry class.
The only problem with this is that documentaries can be somewhat of a crap shoot, in that you might throw one on thinking its going to be rather dull only to find it intensely interesting. It seems Netflix is somewhat notorious for this we have found, and that’s what we were perusing when my wife stumbled upon this documentary called “Echo in the Canyon” and sure enough did this film keep us up way past 1am talking about the music and the overall feel this documentary evoked.
I remember even telling her as I first saw Jakob Dylan riding around in convertible and playing guitar riffs with the late great Tom Petty: “Why did you put this on?!? You know you aren’t going to fall asleep to this! And you know I’m going to want to watch this!!”
And I was right. Typically anything involving Jakob Dylan, son and heir to my favorite musician of all time, Bob Dylan, is going to be enough to snag my attention, but I wasn’t prepared for what ended up being one of the more enjoyable music documentary experiences I’ve had in a while. But if I didn’t know about this gem and I’m a pretty big Jakob Dylan fan (as witnessed by the way we spell my son’s name), chances are a lot of other folks didn’t know about it either.
So it’s time to educate the masses and throw a GotS sized spotlight on a super interesting slice of modern music meets classic rock which I’m sure you will enjoy as well if you give it a chance!
10 Cent Synopsis:
Turning back the clock to examine the Laurel Canyon music scene in the mid 60s, Jakob Dylan hosts a whirlwind series of interviews with such rock legends as Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Jackson Browne, Michelle Phillips, and more as they discuss the melting pot of folk and rock which was this little strip of the Hollywood Hills region of the Santa Monica Mountains and the incredible sound it helped create.
Not only that, but Jakob also has assembled several more modern rock stars such as Beck, Norah Jones, Fiona Apple, Cat Power and others to help him recreate some of this gorgeous music for a new generation of fans with brand new arrangements, including real concert footage from L.A.’s Orpheum Theatre.
Review of the Documentary:
Alright, as I mentioned before, I’m a sucker for anything involving Jakob Dylan. Not only because he’s Bob Dylan’s son, but because genuinely I’ve loved his voice and music ever since I first was mesmerized by “One Headlight” back in 1997. I’m one of the few people I know that continue to buy his albums despite the fact that every time I play someone a Jakob Dylan song, they inevitably say “That was a pretty good tune, is that the Wallflowers guy?”
So to have an opportunity to see Jakob interview so many classic rock icons is insanely wonderful. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s not much of an interviewer as he mostly just sits and lets the other artists do the talking, but you can tell that most of them have an almost familial ease with Jakob that they more often than not extremely candid and approachable.
Maybe it helps that most of them still probably view him in some way was Bob’s little boy, and given their relationship with Old Man Dylan, they treat him with a measure of respect and genuine affection that might not be awarded to other folks. I won’t lie, most of the people Jakob interviews are known friends of his Dad, such as Traveling Wilburys band mate, Tom Petty, or Byrds members David Crosby and Roger Mcguinn who covered many of his songs, so it would be like my own son interviewing my GotS co hosts, Chad or Rob. There would be a freedom to the discussion you might not get with others, and you can see that. Most of the interviews are just the way normal people talk about the past, with that loving nostalgia shared over a quiet meal with close friends.
Speaking of Tom Petty, that is one of the most charming and melancholy parts of this documentary in that this was his last filmed interview prior to his unexpected tragic death in the fall of 2018. It is indeed wonderful to hear Tom talk about his roots in the folk rock scene, about seeing Buffalo Springfield as a young man and the influence it had on him. Plus that opening segment where he shows off his guitar skills on a 12 string Rickenbacker guitar is just plain magical.
Overall though, from the interviews with the gang Jakob has assembled, you really do get a terrific sense of the amazing creative community that was Laurel Valley at this time. Nearly all of the artists interviewed discuss how with every album released, it expanded the minds of those that would listen and inspired them to write even more profound work. It’s often times mentioned how the Beatles’ Rubber Soul inspired Brian Wilson to create Pet Sounds, which in turn pushed the Beatles to respond with Sgt. Pepper, but to hear all of it told in the way that this documentary does by Brian Wilson himself or by Ringo Starr, it seems to drive the shared sense of musical community home.
As a creative type myself, it really made me yearn for some sort of larger shared purpose like that in my own life, and made me reevaluate the type of interpersonal connections I want to have with people I have met through this podcast/website.
Regardless, this coupled with the concert footage of Jakob Dylan and the more recent musicians like Beck and Fiona Apple doing their renditions of some of the classic songs discussed throughout is amazing. As I’ll get to in a second with my review of the album, I believe Beck mentions how different the records put out at this time were in that they were so collaborative, in which you had these super groups of artists coming together to make music. There wasn’t just one main draw for a band, one person making all the songs, but 2 or 3 different songwriters, singers, whatever, and that harmony and creative teamwork really was something you don’t see very often today.
However, who here wouldn’t buy an album if Jakob Dylan, Beck, Regina Spektor, and Norah Jones didn’t team up to create a massive super group, filled with all kinds of wonderful harmonies and diverse musical output? I sure would, and in fact that’s what you get in small part with the soundtrack for this documentary…which again I’ll get to in just a moment.
But in closing on the documentary, although some might gripe that there are some glaring omissions in terms of artists as the documentary doesn’t touch on either the Doors or Joni Mitchell, both of which were important to that Laurel Canyon sound, I think this film overall is a delight.
If you are fan of the music of the 60s like I am, if that sound fills your heart with fond memories a simpler past while at the same time making you appreciate more the types of incredible music we’ve lost sight of in recent years, then you should definitely watch this documentary. Again it’s Netflix right now, so go out there and stream it!
Andy’s Read Pile Grade: A
Review of the Album:
Okay, so if you think I gushed all over the documentary, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Echo in the Canyon is by far one of the best albums from top to bottom that I’ve listened to in years. Every single song is just tremendous, so kudos to Jakob Dylan, producer Andrew Slater, and the cast of musicians that came together to select these particular songs for inclusion in this “greatest hits” album of the the musical output of this particular place and period of time.
What I especially like is the fact that none of the songs on the album are the most well known radio hits from that time period. I mean, they selected “Go Where You Want to Go” from The Mamas and the Papas instead of “California Dreaming”, they went with “The Bells Of Rhymney” from The Byrds instead of “Turn, Turn, Turn”, and that really does make this record more than just some sort of glorified cover band rendition of popular hits. It makes it an true exploration of the rich and diverse sounds that were coming out of this area and the artists that made them. It’s like Jakob Dylan dug through his archives and found all the lost gems and hidden treasures, dusted them off, and through his music showed you why these songs are not only important from a historical perspective, but are still just as insanely entertaining as they ever were.
In particular, three tunes I can name off the top of my head that haven’t been able to stop listening to are Jakob Dylan & Beck singing the Byrds “I’m Going Back”, Jakob and Norah Jones singing The Association’s “Never My Love”, and finally Jakob & Fiona Apple singing the haunting Brian Wilson/Beach Boys piece “In my Room”. Absolutely dynamite stuff!
Even though, I didn’t win the “Top 10 Songs of 2010s” and some people might question my music tastes, trust me when I say I can’t recommend picking up this album any higher than what I’m saying to you right now. Find it, buy it, enjoy it! It is truly something special.
Andy’s Read Pile Grade: A