Various Artists

Echo In the Canyon [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

As a film and an album, Echo in the Canyon is designed to celebrate the glory days of Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon. Those would be the years between 1964 and 1967, which encompass the prime of folk-rock, the music made when the Byrds played the songs of Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan with an electrified jangle. As it happens, Jakob Dylan, son of Bob, plays a pivotal role in Echo in the Canyon, acting as the guide in the film's journey through the past and anchoring the 13 cover versions that comprise the film's soundtrack. The soundtrack to Echo in the Canyon shows how the entire project tends to conflate the sound of Hollywood and the sound of the beach with the sound of the canyon -- a perhaps inevitable move, as there was so much crossover between these specific L.A. scenes. That said, having the Beach Boys play such a prominent role on Echo in the Canyon feels just slightly off, and having "In My Room" and "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" here alongside the Association's AM staple "Never My Love" and the Monkees' "She" ever so slightly turns the album into a good-hearted oldies revival, as Jakob Dylan, his crackerjack studio band, and a rotating cast of duet partners play with the gusto of a good bar band. Since everybody involved is a pro, this is tight, not loose, which means every cut feels a little too tidy and straight. Dylan proves to be an amiable host, coaxing out friendly harmonies from Beck and Josh Homme while happily ceding the spotlight to Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, and Norah Jones and the mellow camaraderie is appealing and even ingratiating. It isn't especially compelling, though. After a while, the album settles into a genial groove, generating good vibes but also the desire to put this CD away so you can dig out the old records and hear the originals.

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