It’s the closer of the album proper, though, “Too Late,” that lifts Laurel Canyon above being a pleasantly sunny period piece. What could De Shannon have been thinking when she wrote it? “I’m too close to my journey’s end” she begins, a line you’d expect out of Charlie Rich or Johnny Cash decades later and not a 23-year-old woman celebrating hippie urban pastoralism. Rebennack’s rolling crystalline piano quotes the gospel-blues conflation of Ray Charles’s “Drown in My Own Tears.” And when De Shannon sings, “I can almost touch my God’s face,” with a mixture of resignation and the eagerness for salvation, a chill and a thrill go through you. It’s as if a curtain had descended, replacing the leafy sunshine of the LA Canyon she’s celebrated with a beam of heavenly light that bears her up like an astral conveyor belt — both a connection to the roots of country and gospel and a severing from the earth. Like the melancholy that marks the last moments of Arthur Penn’s Alice’s Restaurant, it’s an early acknowledgment that this utopia was not meant to last.
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