Possibly the most overlooked album this year comes not from a singular artist or band, but by way of a soundtrack.
Released last spring, the film “Echo of the Canyon” shined a spotlight on the mid-sixties Laurel Canyon, California, music scene. The creativity emerging when folk music was going electric was perfect for Andrew Slater’s documentary, and the soundtrack is a keeper.
In the album’s driver’s seat is singer, songwriter and Wallflowers frontman, Jakob Dylan.
It’s abundantly clear the talented Los Angeles-based musician paid attention to detail as he shepherded the project along.
The thirteen tracks feature creative performances by superstars Beck, Cat Power, Norah Jones, Eric Clapton, Fiona Apple and more. Dylan does both the guest artists – and the songwriters they honor – justice.
Included in “Echo” are fresh retakes of hit songs by The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Beach Boys and The Mamas and the Papas.
Listen for Fiona Apple’s choice vocals on The Byrd’s “It Won’t Be Wrong,” and Brian Wilson’s “In My Room.”
Equally commendable are Cat Power’s superlative vocals on “You Showed Me.”
Another high point? Regina Spektor’s lovely contribution to Neil Young’s “Expecting to Fly.”
Throughout the album, Dylan’s appealingly husky vocals tie everything together splendidly.
Puzzlingly absent from “Echo” are any tracks from Laurel Canyon songstress Joni Mitchell. Her influence surely might have prompted a more encompassing retrospective.
That said, as might be expected from Jakob Dylan, the creative song arrangements are tight and well-executed. Have a listen to “Questions” (feat. Dylan, Stephen Stills and Eric Clapton):
The shiniest gem in this nostalgic treasure chest is a remake of Pete Seeger’s classic “The Bells of Rhymney” (made famous by The Byrds in 1965). Showcasing exemplary guitar, glorious vocal harmonies and touches of banjo, it’s resplendent.
The Bells of Rhymney
May the sounds of the canyon echo on.