I thought I'd combine the latest gear report with three guitar reviews. My role in the Handa-McGraw and the Internationals band is actually more being the Swiss Army knife guy who plays various acoustic and ethnic instruments, but still I still mainly identify myself as a guitar player.
Like many guitar players, The collection tends to change over time. Though a lot of guitars still pass through my hands, The overall goal has been to reduce the amount of solid body electric guitars.
As of November I've ended up with these three for a variety of good reasons (though GAS manifests in many ways, for all I know, this might simply be yet another passing phase).
This set of three fit's what I plan to do for next couple of years very well.
To keep the structure of this essay simple, I'm simply going to divide it into three guitar opinion-based, non-technical reviews. Each will have my reason for getting it.
2000 30th Anniversary Goldtop Les Paul Deluxe:
My first really good electric guitar was a Gibson Goldtop Les Paul from the late 50s. In the early 70s you could get one for about $400, which was considered pretty high for a used guitar.
I ended up trading it to a guitar store for an old Gibson ES-330 and 150.00...a deal that would seem almost unreal in this modern era. I traded it in because I hated the neck, it felt like a baseball bat, though I liked the now classic soapbar P-90 pickups.
The urge to get a Goldtop Les Paul revived when I saw Alan Wilson playing one on YouTube at the 60s Woodstock Festival, and to make a long story short this is the model I ended up with.
My intent was to replace the mini buckers with P-90 soap bars since it was also routed for those, but I've always liked mini HBs and I liked the sound so I kept those in.
This particular Les Paul is simply a re-creation of the version that was very common in the 70s. One of the most famous users was Pete Townsend of the Who.
Like most modern Gibson reissues, especially at what they consider their normal price range, it's not entirely period correct.
For one thing the body's been "weight relieved," that is to say spaces cut into the body to make it less heavy. Which is fine with me, I got this model because I got a good deal on it, and was what I was looking for. It may change the tone for some ears, but it pretty much sounds like a deluxe to me.
The main difference between this one and the standard really is the mini humbuckers, with a slightly brighter tone. A difference that pretty much disappears once you start adjusting the tone knobs on your amplifier.
Amplifier and tone pedal technology has become so advanced in this day and age that you can really make most guitars sound like whatever you want, and it's really about which guitar feels best in your hands and brings out the music in you.
In the case of this particular model, what I like about it is that one can get most of the standard Les Paul sounds, but because of the sound characteristics of the minis, you can get a lot of Gretsch type tones. That's something that'll come in handy in the future.
In the present though, it's primarily played in a D tuning on the "fender reverb" setting on my amp, and used for blues and other types of music suitable for that setup.
I'm not sure that this 30th Anniversary is better than Norlin-era Gibson LP Deluxe, but prior to the revisionism about vintage guitars, it's interesting that the Gibsons made in that era, which were so bad mouthed back then, have become so classic in the view of many now.
If you had to choose between Gibson's modern update and a vintage 80s Deluxe, in my opinion, go for the best price. Any difference in tone between the two lies in your fingers anyway.
2013 Gibson Rudolf Schenker Flying V:
Rudolf Schenker is the one who turned his brother, Michael, into a Flying V enthusiast. It was hardly a case of an unknown sibling turning a star on to what became his trademark guitar, Rudolf earned his fame with the Scorpions.
Michael Shanker is probably the more well-known Flying V player, and though his early models were Gibsons, his most famous version was made by Dean with the infamous huge V headstock.
I wanted a Flying V but not bad enough to get the Dean version.
The Rudolph Schenker is what you would call a lighter 70s version, as opposed to earlier types like the Korina wood or the models made famous by Albert King, Jimi Hendrix (yes, he played one also), or Dave Davies of the Kinks.
In most respects it is a standard V. It's a one piece mahogany body guitar with a stock Gibson '57 in the neck position, but with a '57 plus at the bridge.
It does differ in two important ways. The fretboard is made of granadillo wood instead of Rosewood or Ebony, and the neck is voluted to minimize the traditional fragility of the Gibson headstock joint.
Granadillo is known as the "singing wood," and commonly used for xylophones. It's pretty similar to Rosewood in terms of feel. I definitely like it better than the baked maple Gibson has been using on some of the other models.
The most distinctive feature is the now famous half white half black coloring that goes all the way up to the headstock, and there is a matching colored pick guard on both sides.
From what I've read on the Internet, and it seems like the truth, this was a limited edition that only around 200 were sold in the United States, and 400 worldwide. What makes it really unique is that it wasn't anywhere near as expensive as many of the limited edition Gibsons have been in the past.
You can get the full specs for the guitar on the Internet and plenty of demonstrations of it's sound on YouTube so I won't get too heavily into the technical details here.
Being named after the guitarist of the Scorpions, I'm sure that the perception will be that it's an ultimate metal guitar. Given what I've heard so far from it, I have to say that that's true.
The fretboard feels a little wider than some Vs that I've played, but I like the string spacing, which is very suitable for someone like me who mainly fingerpicks.
The main reason I got a V was because I gave up on Strats. I've owned over half a dozen of various types including the Eric Clapton model, and never could warm up to strats. One reason could be that I'm used to Tele's, but the Flying V gives me the sound that I wanted to get out of strats. It's a totally subjective thing.
I personally got the Rudolph Shenker V because I was able to make a good trade for it, and I've always really liked that black-and-white color scheme. It's a beautifully crafted guitar, light and a great player, and I think the voluted neck should be standard on all Gibsons.
Santos Custom Telecaster:
Santos is a small luthier and guitar maker based in Santa Cruz, Ca. The basic model telecaster produced here was a one piece mahogany body custom with two humbuckers and a maple neck.
The original buyer made several modifications to it. He replaced the neck with a Seymour Duncan alnico for the neck, and put a vintage 70s era Dimarzio distortion in the bridge position. The two are wired to also split into single coils individually and can be put out of phase when both PUs are engaged.
An original Bigsby tremelo was installed, and the knobs changed out from metal to custom made mohogany. The tuners were changed out to Schaller locking types, and additional fretwork and setup was done by Dan Armstrong, a well known Luthier in the area.
The big surprise was how the Dimarzio performed on this tele. My original intention was to pull it out and sell it, and replace it with a TV Jones. However, it turned out to be an excellent pick up that does especially well in single coil mode.
It's turned out to be an extremely versatile Tele, that can get most of the traditional sounds, and can range into Gretsch and Gibson SG territory. After a couple of years it seems like the Bigsby should've become a standard feature on at least some of the tele models. It's a lot of fun to have one on this type of guitar.
It's not the ultimate telecaster, i'm sure more than a couple of Fenders will find their way back into the collection in the future, but this one will be always be one of my favorite guitars.