Richard Nisley


Echo in the Canyon, a documentary
Pop Culture Released - Oct 12, 2019
The star of this documentary is not the glittering array of talented bands and singers who called Laurel Canyon their home, but the songs that emerged from Southern California in the years 1965 to 1967. Hearing these songs performed by a number of today's singers is to hear them anew, and to marvel at how great they truly are: songs associated with the Byrds ("Wild Mountain Thyme", "It Won't Be Wrong", "Bells of Rhymney", "Goin' Back"), the Beach Boys ("In My Room", "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"), Buffalo Springfield ("Expecting to Fly", "Questions"), the Mamas and Papas ("Monday, Monday", "Go Where You Wanna Go"), and by the Association ("Never My Love",). The singers are led by Jakob Dylan, who, with director Andrew Slater, dreamed up, wrote and produced this documentary. Other featured singers and musicians include Cat Power, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, Beck, Jade Castrinos and Josh Hommel. All the girls have great voices. To hear them perform, particularly Jade Castrinos, who really cuts loose on a verse from "Go Where You Wanna Go," is stunning, and worth the price of admission.

A number of rock stars who resided in Laure Canyon in the 1960s are interviewed by Jakob Dylan: former Byrds Roger McGuinn and David Crosby; Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys; former Buffalo Springfield member Stephen Stills; John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful; and from the Mamas and Papas, Michelle Phillips and producer Lou Adler. Also interviewed are artists from more recent times but long associated with the Southern California music scene: Jackson Browne and Tom Petty; plus a trio of Englishmen who spent a lot of time in and around Laurel Canyon in the late '60s: Eric Clapton, Graham Nash, and Ringo Star. The interviews make this documentary highly worthwhile.

Interestingly, Brian Wilson says he used four Hollywood sound studios to record his magnum opus–"Good Vibrations": United Western Recorders, for drums, bass and guitars; Sunset Studio, for "tech piano"; Gold Star Recorders for its echo chamber; and the RCA Victor studio for vocals.

Producer Lou Adler gives a mini tour inside Studio Three for United Western Recorders, and with Michelle Phillips discusses the days when the Mamas and Papas recorded their hits there.

Interspersed with the interviews and music footage are scenes from the 1969 movie "Model Shop" starring Gary Lockwood, which was shot in and around Hollywood at the time this music was being made.

Given a lot of credit is Roger McGuinn, who was the first to see the possibilities of uniting folk music with Rock N Roll. And, of course, his name has long been associated with the electric Rickenbacker 12-string guitar, which readily identified the Byrds' unique sound. And while it was not discussed, it seems fitting that McGuinn and the Byrds should record their masterpiece "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" at the end of 1967, when the era of Southern California folk-rock was drawing to a close.

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