California Dreamin’ (Documentary Review: “Echo in the Canyon”)

A stirring musical journey thru a time & place that shaped the future of popular music for generations to come. A must-hear!

SnapShot Plot

In the sensually nostalgic 2019 documentary, Echo in the Canyon, Jakob Dylan (of the Wallflowers and also son to Bob Dylan) takes us on a musical forensics expedition, combining interviews, discussions, sing-a-longs, and live concert performance in a sneak peek at the magic that was Laurel Canyon in the 60s. That (mostly) artistic enclave, nestled along the winding roads in the hills above L.A., was/is considered the Mount Olympus of the singer/songwriters who have achieved the status of musical gods.

A strangely phlegmatic host and narrator, Dylan nonetheless communicates the awe-inspiring genius of the luminaries of the day, in conversation with the likes of Tom Petty, Roger McGuinn, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Eric Clapton, to name just a handful.Concurrent with these revealing interviews, Dylan has also assembled a bevy of contemporary artists – including Beck, Regina Spektor, Cat Power, and Fiona Apple – who ponder the big questions about what made those artists and those songs so resonant and timeless. To boot, we’ve got live concert snippets and studio sessions featuring a mixture of most of the artists, young and old alike. The sound is still fresh, and the stories are still captivating, with a sprinkle of revelations in store. Of course, there’s a soundtrack album, so the amazing, resurrected songs are given a second life here.

Parting Shot

Produced and directed by Andrew Slater, Echo in the Canyon is a feat of storytelling, blending brilliant musicality with an unapologetic nostalgia for a time and place that signaled many things to many people. Critics of the film have cited both its peculiarly narrow swath (5 yrs or so in the early 60s) as well as its omission of artists such as Joni Mitchell and the Doors, especially as Mitchell has personified the Laurel Canyon mystique in countless writings and retellings of that period. But in truth, she didn’t arrive on the scene until ’67, and the focus of the film was to examine the sources and influences that drew artists such as McGuinn out West from the folk scene of Greenwich Village in NYC. Many have said that if it weren’t for Roger McGuinn and The Byrds, we might never have seen Folk go Electric, and the shape of popular music would have been forever lessened. The movie does an exemplary job, too, of demonstrating how – in a much more laid-back vibe – these artists hung out, played together in each other’s homes, and influenced each other’s musical spirits in a profound and prolific explosion of musical creativity. . . their sounds echoing across the canyon and into each other’s souls. Echo in the Canyon, although perhaps most sentimentally resonant for a Boomer audience, is nonetheless an absolute must-see for music lovers of all ages.

Echo in the Canyon is presently streaming on Netflix.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to partner on a fantastic site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern as well as right here at home. I invite you to go there for more great content!

YouTube Trailer:


  • Rick Cowan says:

    Thanks for this insightful and informative review, Norma. The film’s only disappointments for this viewer were Jakob Dylan’s lackluster narration and the boring couch interviews he conducts with milennial pop stars vaguely commenting about music they don’t know much about.

    • Norma says:

      Rick, thanks for your own insightful comment. It seems we are squarely on the same page about Dylan’s whole aspect, and you make a good point about those chats, although I did enjoy seeing Beck included! I hope you’ll keep me on my toes, and keep checking me out!

  • Debbie says:

    One of your best reviews! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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