Review by Sean Boelman
Taking a look at one of the most important locations and eras in music history, Alsion Elwood’s two-part documentary Laurel Canyon is a must-watch for any fan of classic rock. An in-depth examination of the lives and music of some of the genre’s most iconic musicians, this info-packed documentary is a treat, even if it is a little overstuffed.
The series explores the music scene that formed in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles which gave birth to a movement of innovative thinkers who changed the course of music for good. Although the documentary doesn’t offer a whole lot of new information that fans won’t already know, the new interviews that it features are sure to be intriguing for anyone who cares about these musicians’ work.
Part of what stands out about Elwood’s documentary is that she is able to make it feel both comprehensive and personal. The series talks about nearly all of the major musicians and groups that came out of the Laurel Canyon scene, and as such, it will have something for everyone, even if just a small segment.
The two sections, which clock in at a combined total of a little under three hours, feel very complete and do a good job of providing a survey of the topic’s history. While the feature documentary on the topic, Echo in the Canyon, is almost certainly the more entertaining of the two, this series offers the more in-depth interviews.
That said, there was also plenty enough information for Elwood to have made a longer miniseries on the topic. Granted, the brief runtime dedicated to each group allows the documentary to breeze by, but there’s obviously more to these stories than just humorous anecdotes. Fans could likely sit and watch their favorite musicians talk all day, and had the series been just a bit longer.
As one would expect, music plays a substantial role in the documentary, and Elwood does an amazing job of incorporating the soundtrack. All the favorite Laurel Canyon songs, and some that viewers might not expect, make an appearance, either in the form of performance/recording footage or to underscore the interviews.
The greatest strength of Elwood’s documentary is without a doubt the interviews, which provide personal (and sometimes unfiltered) access to the stories of Laurel Canyon, but she nonetheless does a good job of incorporating archive footage into the series in an attempt to make it feel like a more immersive viewing experience.
Laurel Canyon is an informative music history documentary, and while it could have spared to be longer, it’s still in-depth enough to be fascinating. Getting to see these musicians talk is worth the watch alone.
Laurel Canyon airs on Epix in two parts on May 31 and June 7 at 10pm.