In the late sixties, the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles was one of those mythical places that sprouted a whole new musical genre, that of the singer-songwriter. The neighborhood’s famous residents at the time included members of The Byrds, The Mamas And The Papas, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Carol King, and the various member of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
The new documentary DVD Legends Of The Canyon sets out to tell the story of the various Canyon musicians, who they are and how they got together. Somewhere along the way the script must have been hijacked by a member of CSN though, because Legends Of The Canyon focuses almost exclusively on them. This is most likely due to the involvement of photographer Henry Diltz, who has published numerous books on the band, and seems to be something of a confidant to them.
I am a pretty big fan of CSN, and actually quite enjoyed the two hour DVD. But as a fan of so many of the other groups mentioned, I was a little disappointed that there was so little actual material about them in the film. As a young musician turned photographer at the time, Diltz did have incredible access to a wealth of material. So there are some very rare photos and footage from the time included. There are also a number of rare, vintage interview segments which help to balance things out.
The Legends Of The Canyon DVD comes with a nice booklet filled with old, rare photos of the different groups, with a cover featuring (guess who?) Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The DVD extras include a wealth of material from Henry Diltz’s archives. These again focus almost exclusively on CSN, and feature some silent footage of them with Joni Mitchell and in England. There are also interviews with the trio, plus one with the great songwriter Van Dyke Parks, which was a real highlight for me.
All in all I enjoyed Legends Of The Canyon for the rare footage and the story of this short-lived musical paradise. My only complaint is that my expectations based on the title were of a much more inclusive story about the scene. If this had been called something like CSN & Other Legends Of The Canyon, it would have been better because at least you would have known what to expect. So with that caveat in mind, I do recommend it, but mainly for CSN (and sometimes) Y fans.