Filled with silly, sprawling anecdotes about beloved bands, viewers who grew up beneath the sunshade of The Beach Boys, in the care of their Mamas and Papas, are going to love every reverberation of Echo in the Canyon. As music docs go, it sounds and looks just totally aces, and at less than 90 minutes, it ain’t gonna hurt nobody who isn’t all that interested. So, if you wax nostalgic for the music of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon, still rightfully mourn the passing of Tom Petty and can stare at David Crosby without thinking he looks like a cartoon ghost pirate, you’re going to be delighted.
I’m gonna make fun of it now.
See, the problem with Echo in the Canyon is that it is a narrative, organizational mess. It’s as if a drunken sailor is navigating the seas, wobbling from story port to story port. And that drunken sailor is Jakob Dylan. I know what you’re thinking: “Finally! At long last, my legendary thirst for more Jakob Dylan may finally be slaked!” Who among us goes a single day without wondering what Jakob Dylan is doing? Well, don’t you worry, Echo in the Canyon is all Jakob Dylan all the time!
Clothed and posed as if he were a mannequin designed as a parody of a “cool rock daddy,” Jakob Dylan nods as fascinating people regale him with genuinely interesting stories that barely keep him conscious. Then he covers their music. Now, I understand that filmmaker Andrew Slater assembled this documentary after working with Jakob Dylan on a tribute album celebrating these legendary folk rock bands. That doesn’t make it any less awkward to hear how incredible and influential they were and then hear someone else sing their songs. And not just someone else: Jakob Dylan.
I’ve never understood how the children of super-famous parents decide to follow in their exact footsteps. I promise you, if my dad were Roger Ebert, you’d be reading a recipe I created right now instead of this. Bob Dylan is and always will be “Dylan,” hence the repetition of the name Jakob in this review. It’s a bit insane that Bob Dylan’s son is in a documentary about folk music, and we barely hear him speak of his dad but definitely hear him sing a lot.
Thankfully, other, much better, people also sing. Fiona Apple absolutely haunted me when she joined Jakob Dylan on a cover of the Beach Boys’ “In My Room.” Likewise, Regina Spektor gave me the chills in her duet with Jakob Dylan. Cat Power is casually brilliant jamming with Spektor, Beck and Jakob Dylan on a couch, where he tells them all what to do. Jakob Dylan is omnipresent here. Jakob Dylan is both the echo and the canyon. After watching the film, Jakob Dylan will follow you home and watch you sleep and then cover your dreams and nightmares.
Again, to reiterate, Echo in the Canyon will tickle the bass strings in the hearts of those who loved the artists included and mentioned. Everyone else is going to be distracted by the Jakob Dylan of it all, as if blinded by staring too long at one headlight.
Grade = C+