I caught up with “Laurel Canyon,” a new two-part docuseries that premiered on Epix two weeks ago (and not to be confused with the inferior “Echo in the Canyon”). It’s about all the musicians and bands living, performing, and crossing paths in the Los Angeles enclave in the late-1960s and early 1970s, including David Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Buffalo Springfield, Love, Bonnie Raitt, the Mamas and the Papas, Jackson Browne, the Byrds, the Doors, Alice Cooper, JD Souther, Linda Ronstadt, Little Feat, Frank Zappa, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Monkees.
It’s not that “Laurel Canyon” breaks new ground, especially if you’ve been following the musicians who emerged from that time and place for years. But it’s packed with enough excellent footage and photos of all the artists it covers to feel immersive. Wisely, director Alison Ellwood keeps all of her interview subjects (excluding two photographers, Henry Diltz and Nurit Wilde) off the screen; we only hear them speak, while Ellwood IDs them so we know whether we’re hearing Browne, Crosby, Stephen Stills, Robbie Krieger, Michelle Phillips, or any of the many others. The approach lets us sink into the images and feeling of Laurel Canyon without the distraction of how these people look now. She also includes the old recorded voices of Cass Elliot, Arthur Lee, Jim Morrison, and others who’ve died.