Christian Parker - Change Is Now: A Tribute To The Byrds



Upper New York state native Christian Parker suffuses his second tribute album to the Byrds with vintage opulence as he conjures a timeless world of West Coast-inspired cool. Last summer he released SWEETHEARTS, in which he re-imagined the classic SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO Byrds’ album. For CHANGE IS NOW, he digs deeper into the country-rock band’s canon, as he takes the listener back into the dreamy vibes of Laurel Canyon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Co-produced with guitarist Gary Jacob, who masterfully provides the chiming tones of the iconic Rickenbacker 12-string guitar that played such an integral part in the Byrds’ sound, Christian is also joined by Todd Staudinger on vocal harmonies and legendary pianist Earl Poole Ball, who played on several of the Byrds’ legacy recordings. Rather than just carbon-copying the originals, Christian is simply adding this voice to the mix, and much like the Byrds, seeing country-folk songs through a contemporary lens. But he is careful to avoid the concept of preservation when discussing his approach to making the album. He has added his own unique touches, to give these 15 songs of jangling country-rock delights, a fresh dusting of magic.

Avoiding the Byrds’ well-known classics, Christian has dug deep into lesser-known gems to showcase the depth of the band’s repertoire. A highlight on this set is She Don’t Care About Time, the long-forgotten B-side to their 1968 Turn! Turn! Turn! hit. For some inexplicable reason, this superb Gene Clark song, was omitted from the TURN! TURN! TURN! album. Christian does a fine job of mixing cosmic country with Hollies-styled vocal harmonies to make for a supremely enjoyable track. The title song, a co-write by Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn, is a country rocker with a soft easy rhythm, chiming electric guitar, pulsing bass, pedal steel and strong vocal lead and harmonies. From the outset of their career, the Byrds had a strong connection with Bob Dylan, and Christian has chosen a couple of his songs. Chimes Of Freedom, with its jangly 12-string guitar, steady groove and airy harmonies, definitely brings to mind the early 1960s Protest Movement with its psych folk-rock vibe and rallying lyrics. Though Ballad Of Easy Rider, was initially credited to Roger McGuinn when released in 1969, it is obviously Dylan-esq, and it later transpired that he was involved in the song’s creation. One of the prettiest songs in the Byrds’ songbook, it receives a gorgeous, delicate treatment that underscores the track’s nostalgic melancholy.

One of the catchiest songs is Chris Hillman’s Time Between, which points to his later work with the Desert Rose Band. Drenched in pedal steel, this one moves along at a cracking pace with an infectious toe-tapping rhythm. Alongside their own songs, the Byrds also contemporised several traditional songs, giving them a new lease of life. Christian takes on the old Irish chestnut Wild Mountain Thyme, with folksy acoustic guitar, hypnotic drum patterns and lush strings that lay deeply immersed in the songs’ Celtic soundscapes. He follows more closely the Clarence White arrangement for Farther Along, the timeless gospel tune that the Byrds’ featured on their 1971 album of the same title, which included White as a member of the band. Christian closes the album with Tom Paxton’s The Last Thing On My Mind, which is given a stripped back acoustic arrangement with his vocal plaintive and full of regret. This is a solid closer for a really warm and most enjoyable release.

March 2024