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May, 2009:

Collectable Guitars pt 29 – Ampeg Dan Armstrong Plexiglass

icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481The Dan Armstrong Plexiglass was a very odd guitar originally made from 1969 to 1971 as an effort by popular amplification company Ampeg to draw in some more sales than their then-ailing amp lines were. The guitars came about from legendary guitar builder and repairer Dan Armstrong posing Ampeg the question:

“Since you make guitar and bass amplifiers, why not also make guitars and basses?”

Dan Armstrong Plexiglass GuitarAmpeg then asked Armstrong to design some guitars and basses for them to market. The design he came up with resides somewhere between a Strat and an SG, but with a surreal twist: the body was made entirely of a solid slab of Plexiglas (the trade name for a type of rigid, clear plastic) and the scratchplate of a piece of the wood-grain replica pattern Formica, popular on furniture in the 1960s and 70s.

The other very novel and inventive feature of the Dan Armstrong was the electrics arrangement. There was only one pickup “slot”, at the bridge position. There was no pickup actually installed, but specially designed self-contained pickups were available, a twin blade humbucker or a blade single-coil. All the pickups were contained in the same size casing, but the upside was that the two types of pickups could be slotted in very easily and with no complex modification required. There was also an inbuilt volume boost circuit.

There were a couple of clear upsides of the Plexiglas Ampeg, which was available as a guitar or bass. The solid Plexiglas body had a lot more sustain than most other guitars available at the time, new pickups could be slotted in easily with the radical circuitry, and the Plexi body just looked refreshingly different. However, it was also very heavy, and more difficult to make than wooden guitars. Ampeg and Dan Armstrong parted ways in 1971, and the guitar was no more. However, the model has been reissued and is currently available. Ampeg also do cheaper versions made of mahogany or swamp ash.

The guitars have been most famously used by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

Current prices for originals are high, and the 1970s models are rare. The armies of 1970s Ampeg copies by Ibanez and Shaftesbury are also rare and collectable, but prices for the reissue start at £450-ish for the wooden ones, and the Plexi reissues are about £1000.

Collectable Guitars pt 28 – Daion Guitars

icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481Now here’s one you might not have heard of.

Daion were an old Japanese company operating from the famed Matsumoku factory for a short period in the early 1980s. The Daions were very high quality, and full of innovative features.

They had a range of electrics, basses and acoustics which were often very different to the usual guitars available from the bigger companies.

Daion GuitarsOne of the better known (and I use that term loosely) Daion models was the semi-solid ES-335-alike 555 Headhunter, which featured an innovative third cutaway on the bottom of the body.

The central solid block was a sandwich of maple and spruce, with ten grooves cut into each end for increased resonance. It also included a coil split function for each pickup and through-body stringing, a first for semi-hollow guitars.

The company also made two lines of solid-body twin cutaway guitars. The Savage utilised a bolt-on neck and two humbuckers, or three in the case of the Barbarian from the same line.

There was also a bass, similar in looks to a Gibson Ripper. The other run was the through-neck Power series.

This had the SG-alike Power Mk.X and the Mk.XX, which looked similar to a Westone or Ibanez Musician. These also had two humbuckers.

Daion also made acoustic guitars, some, in the Caribou and Gazelle series, with a similar bottom cutaway to the 555 Headhunter. There were even 12 string models.

Daion Power Solid Body Guitars

The Caribou and Gazelle were Daion’s response to the upcoming amplified acoustics market, while the Legacy and Year series were standard high quality acoustics.

Daion, for whatever reason, was a shortlived brand which never really took off.

Very few people have ever even heard of this underrated company, which is why, in the rare event of a Daion of any type coming up for sale, it never generates as much interest as it probably should.

Daions sell infrequently, so prices are unclear. I found a Daion Acoustic which sold for $850 a couple of years back, but Ebay searches didn’t bring up any guitars at all. I would guess the 555 semis would be worth between £500-1000 and  if the trickle of enthusiastic players is to be believed they are worth every penny of whatever figure they sell for.

Ronnie Monrose sues Gary Moore over theft of ’59 Les Paul

icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481In a downer moment that must have left countless concert-goers blinking, shaking their heads, and bellowing, “drag, man!” Guitarist Ronnie Montrose actually stopped a show in mid-song, had the house lights turned on, and scoured the theater when his 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard was stolen right off the stage.

Gary MooreMontrose, a San Franciscan, hasn’t seen his guitar (which he bought from J. Geils) since that night on Oct. 10, 1972 when he played Dudley, Mass. with the Edgar Winter Band … until now. The San Francisco musician — who has played with Herbie Hancock, Van Morrison and others — claims that after 37 years of scouring and thousands of dollars spent on private detectives, his guitar has turned up in the possession of British musician and guitar collector Gary Moore — and, last week,  Montrose filed suit in San Francisco District Court.

Gibson Les Paul models of this vintage are crafted of mahogany; only around 1,700 or so were ever made and no two guitars look exactly alike. Montrose claims he can identify his old axe from pictures of Moore’s collection — but, more exactingly, he says the serial number of the guitar is the same as the one taken from him in Dudley.   

Reached at his home in Brighton, England, Moore refused to discuss the matter, saying only that the “whole thing is a sham” and “I’ve had that guitar for more than 20 years.” Montrose doesn’t dispute that notion, but he insists that doesn’t change the fact that Moore is in possession of his stolen guitar and must return it. An angry Moore refused to comment further on his tussle with Montrose over the decades-old instrument.

The legal ramifications of the case are complex, and Montrose hopes to get a judge to weigh in on several issues, including the statute of limitations on a 37-year-old case and an instance in which the current owner of a piece of stolen property is not alleged to have stolen it. Another major issue is jurisdictional, as the theft is alleged to have occurred in Massachusetts, its current owner lives in England and Montrose lives in San Francisco.

Ed Roman, owner of Ed Roman Guitars in Las Vegas, has served as an expert witness in stolen guitar cases for the estate of late guitar great Jimi Hendrix. He said Montrose faces an uphill battle, primarily because the alleged theft occurred so long ago.

Roman said the Hendrix estate and Paul McCartney have been unable to retrieve stolen guitars in cases where they knew who had them but were unable to overcome the years gone by. “If it is more than 10 years ago, the person who has it usually keeps it,” he said. “I doubt Ronnie is going to be able to get it back.”

Guitar thefts have long been common in the music business. R.E.M.’s Peter Buck had his prized Rickenbacker guitar stolen in September in Helsinki, Finland, only to have it returned anonymously two weeks later at a show in Luxembourg. Slash of Guns N’ Roses fame had his Gibson Les Paul Goldtop guitar stolen from his studio in 1998, and Gibson eventually made a new one for its longtime star client.

Montrose’s hunt for his guitar has been rife with false leads, missed opportunities and dead ends. In January 1977, someone contacted one of Montrose’s bandmates about the guitar’s whereabouts, only to disappear when Montrose hired a private investigator to look into it.

The hunt regained steam in the early 2000s when Indelicato was given a photo of a 1959 Gibson Les Paul by another guitar dealer at a Texas guitar show and told that Montrose’s instrument was in the hands of an English guitar player. The photo showed the guitar’s serial number, and Indelicato claims that an Internet search for the serial number sent him to a forum thread on the Gibson Web site that connected Moore and the serial number for Montrose’s missing guitar.

But it was the November 2007 issue of the British magazine Guitar Buyer that ignited the standoff between Montrose and Moore, who once played for Thin Lizzy as well as being a well respected solo artist.

The publication featured a multi-page spread on Moore and his guitar collection, including several photos of a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard. The Sunburst guitar is known for its distinctive maple wood face with unique wood grain patterns. Montrose claims a photo showing a pin-sized hole in the back of the guitar is the proof, as he drills such holes in all of his guitars.

The Guitar Buyer photos showed that the guitar had sustained significant wear and tear over the past 37 years, a sign that Montrose’s complaint claims “substantiates a risk of future damage so as long as the ’59 Gibson remains in Mr. Moore’s possession.”

An angry Moore refused to comment further on his tussle with Montrose over the decades-old instrument. But his quote in the Guitar Buyer story shed light on its value to both men.

When asked if he still played the ’59 Gibson on the road, he replied, “Sometimes, but don’t tell anyone that. I don’t really like taking it out too much because it’s getting a bit scary now. I don’t think I’ll find another Gibson Les Paul to replace it. I’d have to get one of the same vintage, because no matter what new ones I get, they’re never going to be like that.”


Collectable Guitars pt 27 – Fender Robben Ford Model

icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481Blues/Jazz guitarist Robben Ford merges styles to redefine the term “fusion” music. His sound, delivery and conception are all his own – as unmistakable and personal as a fingerprint. He chose a deliberate reinterpretation of the unusual Fender Esprit Ultra as the basis for his signature instrument (the Fender Robben Ford Signature model), which reflects Robben’s discriminating and diverse as both a soloist and rhythm player.

Fender Robben Ford Signature GuitarDesigned in the mid-1980’s, the Esprit effectively reconciled the differences between a blues, jazz and rock guitar, making it ideal for Robben’s varied musical tangents. He was originally drawn to the smaller body size, double-cutaway comfort and remarkable playability of the Esprit as an alternative to the larger, honky-sounding semi-hollow-body he had been playing. Though the Esprit was discontinued by the late 1980’s, Robben remained an ardent user.

The History of the “Master Series”  (by Gary Koehler) is as follows;

Approximately 25 years ago, Dan Smith had an idea. He conceptualized a solidbody guitar with routed chambers. These chambers would, in theory, provide a more resonant tonal characteristic. He also formulated and designed a basic shape for the guitar.

Then, in the early 1980s, Fender became interested in producing and marketing instruments which would be viewed as alternatives to those offered by Gibson. These guitars would not be copies, of course, but highly playable guitars with versatile electronics and other features previously unavailable on instruments manufactured by Fender. The company asked Smith to submit a concept, and what followed was an adventurous effort to produce a new line of guitars unique to the Fender’s catalog. The line was called the Master Series.

Two of Smith’s designs were solidified – the Flame and the Esprit (pronounced espree). Both featured alder bodies with routed tone chambers, maple tops, and set-in necks.

The Flame’s body is slightly larger than a Gibson Les Paul, and features two slightly offset cutaways, similar to Gibson’s SG. Two special-design humbucking pickups were developed via Schaller, as was a tailpiece with fine-tuners. The intention was to offer an electronically versatile alternative to the Gibson Les Paul.

The Esprit’s body is slightly larger than the Flame’s, and features two symmetrical cutaways. As with the Flame, two special-design Schaller humbuckers were employed in conjunction with the fine-tuning tailpiece. This instrument was intended as an alternative to the Gibson ES-335.

A third model was an archtop designed by the late James D’Aquisto. His design included some imaginative, versatile features and stands as a testament to D’Aquisto’s creativity as a luthier. 

These three designs were marketed together as the Fender Master Series.

Once designs were approved, the company turned its attention to issues of manufacturing and production. Fender decided that, at that time, it did not possess the technology to build the instruments. The Japanese company Fujigen Gakki (which served as an Ibanez facility) was contracted by Fender to manufacture the line.

Fender ultimately decided to produce three models of both types. The suffixes Standard, Elite, and Ultra were added under the headings Flame and Esprit. Standards featured dot inlays and chrome tuners. The Elites featured diamond-flake inlays and pearloid-button tuners. And the Ultras had split-block shell inlays, ebony-button tuners and gold hardware. Finish options on the Standards were limited to black, autumn sunburst, and cherry sunburst. The Elite and Ultra were also available in white or pink frost, and candy red or candy green metallic burst.

Smith said Fender offered the Kahler tremolo bridge as an option on these guitars. He recalls Fender made the modification post-production, and relatively few were shipped.

He was unable to find records indicating quantities made, but estimated that between late 1983 and 1985, a few thousand were manufactured. In retrospect, Smith feels the guitars were successful in regard to quality and public perception. The line’s downfall was the sale and subsequent transitional period experienced by Fender. In 1986, Robben Ford was brought on as an endorser of the Esprit model, then Fender reworked the production concept and dubbed the guitar the Robben Ford signature model.

In its incarnation as the Robben Ford signature model, it has retained many of the Ultra’s significant features and deluxe appointments, as specified by Robben, including the Ebony fingerboard with fancy Mother-of-Pearl split-block inlays, Ebony tuning key pegs, multiple binding on the headstock, neck and body and gold-plated hardware. The solid Alder body with a carved Spruce top and built-in acoustical tone chambers is a clever variation on the classic solid-body construction theme of mahogany and maple and is a vital component in producing the rich and consistent sustaining Robben Ford solo guitar voice.

Another is the two-humbucker pickup configuration which yields both a mellow, neck-pickup jazz sound as well as a robust, bridge-pickup blues-rock tone. The coil-splitting switch provides interesting thinner and twangier single-coil timbres ideal for rootsy rock and roll, R&B and funky rhythm comping.

Current values of these rare and collectable guitars are in the £1500-2000 range.

New Guitar Collecting Magazine Launching

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Guitar Aficionado magazine and GuitarAficionado.com from Future U.S., the publishers of Guitar World,  is a new upscale men’s, niche lifestyle publication for music enthusiasts who collect, play and invest in new and vintage guitars.

According to Guitar Aficionado, readers know that guitars are among some of the best-performing, tangible asset investments available today. Traditionally, the value of collectible guitars has increased exponentially over the last 10 to 20 years.

An online brochure is available here

Collectable Guitars pt 26 – Fender Starcaster



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The Starcaster was a short lived semi-hollow guitar made in the mid-1970s and early 1980s as competition to Gibson’s ES335 model. It is uncertain whether it was made from 1976 to 1977 or 1980 to 1982.

The guitar featured the Gibson traditional semi-hollow body and humbuckers, but with a new 6-on-1-side headstock and Fender’s trademark bolt-on neck. 

Fender Starcaster guitar

It also had a maple fretboard and an offset twin-cutaway body, somewhere between a Gibson ES-335 and a Fender Stratocaster. The pickups were Fender’s own Wide Range humbuckers, designed by Seth Lover, known for working with Gibson on their original PAF humbuckers, and allegedly naming their iconic Flying V guitar.

The Wide Range pickups were also used on 1970s Telecaster Custom models. This guitar was therefore a bit of a weird compromise between the two major guitar brands at the time.

Because of this fact, the Starcaster was never really accepted by fans of either of the big names. It found few takers, and was discontinued soon after its launch.

However, it has become collectible as a curiosity guitar, and has been used by Dave Keuning of the Killers and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. Starcasters rarely come up for sale, so it’s hard to pinpoint prices, but on Ebay they are in the £1200-1500 region.

Neptune Bound: The Ultimate Danelectro Guitar Guide



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Neptune Bound: The Ultimate Danelectro Guitar Guide

Neptune Bound: The Ultimate Danelectro Guitar Guide

You may have never heard of a Danelectro guitar.

But Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton certainly have.

The unorthodox instruments — known for their unique design and prized for their clear, bell-like tone — belong in the arsenal of every rock guitarist from Aerosmith to ZZ Top.

And with the publication of “Neptune Bound,” Doug Tulloch has established himself as the world’s foremost expert on the classic instrument, a passion that has put him in the company of some of rock’s greatest guitarists.

“Neptune Bound” is a 437-page tome full of all things Danelectro. It is subtitled “The Ultimate Danelectro Guitar Guide.”

The Danelectro was the creation of Nathan Daniel and was produced in America from 1954 to 1969. Danelectros are recognized for their inexpensive but durable construction. Today the American versions begin selling at $300 and can go up to as much as $5,000 if they are celebrity-owned. For the last 10 years, they have been made in Korea.

“The Danelectro is a no-frills instrument,” Tulloch says. “They’re light and comfortable, which makes it a user-friendly guitar.

They were sold out of the Sears catalog which gave young musicians the opportunity to start out with something that didn’t mean spending a lot of money. Over the years they began to get more rare and expensive.

“Chances are that if you grew up in the 1950s or ’60s you knew someone who owned a Danelectro,” Tulloch says. “People reflect fondly on the instruments. They were a decent guitar for the money. They play as well as any other guitar.”

Danelectros are constructed of Masonite around a pine frame with a poplar neck. One of the guitar’s more notable features is pickups that were originally set in lipstick tube casings. And while most modern guitarists will first reach for Fenders or Gibsons, the performance that can be derived from a Danelectro has made it a studio favorite for many players through the years, including Page and Clapton.

In 1991, Tulloch opened City Guitar, an Acushnet Avenue business that dealt in used and vintage guitars, amplifiers and accessories. He was able to build a collection of Danelectros that eventually grew to 150 guitars. His interest in the instrument also allowed him to provide them for rockers such as Joe Perry and Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, Gregg Allman, Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots and Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule.

“I started collecting Danelectros when no one else was,” Tulloch points out. “I was selling more popular guitars such as Fenders and Gretsches which allowed me to fund my addiction to Danelectros. Since no one was collecting them when I started, I was able to build my collection for cheap.”

Tulloch closed City Guitar in 1996, but not before establishing himself as the expert source on Danelectros.

“People play Danelectros all across the planet,” he says. “I’ve been in touch with people from Sweden to Singapore. And now this is the book that solidifies the subject. This is the definitive book on Danelectros.”

The book, designed by artist Matt Charros, took three years of persistent dedication. It is being sold in England, Japan, and Australia. It is available in America here:

Neptune Bound: The Ultimate Danelectro Guitar Guide

When Tulloch sells the 200th copy of the book, he’s going to raffle off one of his prized Danelectros — a silvertone amp-in-case model valued at $800.

Today Tulloch still buys and sells guitars as well as doing repair work. He occasionally writes articles for magazines such as Vintage Guitar and Japanese Guitar. The majority of the articles are about Danelectros.

“My life is all about guitars,” he says. “I’ve surrounded myself with my passion.”

By www.southcoasttoday.com

Legendary Guitars Going on Tour



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You lucky Californians!

Guitar Center will take its iconic “Legends Collection” on the road beginning May 23 for a 4-city tour that will make weekend stops in Fountain Valley, La Mesa, San Francisco and Hollywood.

Eric Clapton's The “Legends Collection” will feature three of rock’s most famous guitars – Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” Fender Stratocaster and Gibson ES-335, as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny” Fender Stratocaster. Purchased for over $2.4 million from the Clapton Crossroads Centre charity auction at Christies New York in 2004, these three guitars are among the most treasured guitars in rock history.

Assembled in 1973 by Eric Clapton himself from the parts of several guitars, Clapton played “Blackie” almost exclusively on stage and in the studio from 1973-1985, recording hits such as “Cocaine,” “I Shot The Sherriff,” “Wonderful Tonight,” “Further On Up The Road,” “Lay Down Sally” and various live versions of “Layla” as well as being featured on several album covers and videos. His Cherry Red Gibson “ES-335” was used to record Cream’s versions of “Badge” and “Crossroads” as well as many other historical performances during the 40 years he owned it.

Steve Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny,” which Guitar Center purchased for $623,500, was used to record his classic love songs including “Lenny” and “Riviera Paradise.”

Home to the largest collection of vintage instruments in the nation, Guitar Center is also proud to showcase a hand-picked selection of its most rare and sought-after vintage guitars as part of its Vintage Road Show.

Stevie Ray Vaughn

With Vintage locations in Hollywood, Nashville and Manhattan, Guitar Center’s vintage collection includes hundreds of the rarest and most valuable guitars, amplifiers and other instruments, including an impressive assemblage of ’50s and ’60s Strats and Les Pauls, handcrafted archtops, Jazz Basses, P-Basses and more.

Vintage guitar enthusiasts can visit the “Legends Collection” and Vintage Road Show at the following locations:

May 23-24
Guitar Center Fountain Valley
18361 Euclid Street
714-241-9140

May 30-31
Guitar Center La Mesa
8825 Murray Drive
619-668-8400

June 20-21
Guitar Center San Francisco
1645 Van Ness Ave.
415-409-0375

June 26-28
Guitar Center Hollywood
7425 Sunset Blvd
323-874-1060

Daddy Mojo Cigar Box Guitars


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These are so cool..

Daddy Mojo builds handcrafted guitars from cedar and mahogany cigar boxes.

Daddy Mojo Dolorosa Cigar Box GuitarThe instruments, which are smaller and lighter than standard guitars, sell for between $265 and $735 and have found a following among blues aficionados who can’t get enough of the warm sound they provide.

“It has a very unique tone that you can’t find in most other instruments,” said Toronto musician Arthur Renwick, who owns two. “Most people can’t believe just how great it sounds coming from a homemade cigar box.”

The guitars originated as a form of “do-it-yourself” instrument and were used by soldiers during the American Civil War. The practice carried through to the 20th century with poor blues musicians in the Deep South making their own guitars out of discarded cigar boxes and fish wire because they couldn’t afford any other kind.

Daddy Mojo’s present-day incarnation is of better quality than its bare-bones forerunner, but company co-founder Lenny Piroth-Robert says the irony of making an instrument that was born in hard times isn’t lost on him.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s something that makes its mark these days, because it’s really something that came out of a time when people didn’t have much money and had to be creative,” Piroth-Robert said.

“Theoretically the movement would be to make your own (cigar box guitar) in a recession. Mind you, I think we offer a nice, cheaper alternative to most of the guitars out there.”

“(Piroth-Robert) is specifically going against that trend which isn’t about music; it’s about collecting and hoarding and driving the price up.”

Since its inception in 2006, Daddy Mojo has made more than 1,000 cigar box guitars which have been shipped all over the world or sold through retailers in Canada and the United States.

www.daddy-mojo.com

Gibson Holy Explorer

icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481The Gibson Explorer is a guitar most readers may be familiar with, and it is a well-designed, well-loved shape used by several distinguished rock and metal players. So what in the name of all that is holy (see what I did there?) have they done to this one, many will ask.

Gibson Holy Explorer GuitarThe Holy Explorer is a standard, natural finish Explorer with seven gaping holes cut through the body. There is also a Flying V which has had a similar makeover. The guitars feature the usual attributes of the Flying V and Explorer designs- mahogany bodies and necks, 496R and 500T pickups, and the usual 22-fret rosewood fingerboard. But, those holes…

The bad sides of the gaping holes would be the obvious deficits in the sustain. Less wood means less vibration can travel through the body, so the notes can’t last as long. Explorers are famed for the colossal sustain of the large body, so this sort of defeats the objective in that sense.

Maybe the pickups make up for it, but I can’t see that happening without use of a Fernandes Sustainer or an E-Bow. As well as that potential problem, the holes probably won’t be to everyone’s taste. I don’t think it looks too bad, I just can’t see the point.

On the other hand, the original Explorer’s considerable weight would be very much reduced, and the design is quite original, although they could have made a better job of the placing of the holes.  The classic Explorer’s well proven sustain and feel would inevitably be compromised, but answer me this- the Holy Explorer or that utterly repellent Eye Guitar? Gibson are making a whole run of 2009 Limited Run ultra-low production guitars, which, beside the hideous Tribal V and Explorer, also has some very nicely executed guitars- a reissue of the famed 1970s Grabber bass, and a stunning SG with a carved maple top.

So, the Holy Explorer. I think it’s nicely done, but a bit pointless.

An Explorer with less sustain?

And while the design is neat, it’s far from perfectly executed. And, the price is a bit steep- $2775 against $2399 for the standard Explorer, but it will be a limited run of only 350 guitars, making it quite collectable.  Gibson have gone very much overboard on limited run special editions of late, and it’s wearing a bit thin. We’ve had the slightly overcooked Dark Fire, the new all-maple Raw Power Les Paul and SG, which defeats the objective of those two guitars completely, the  Eye (sore) Guitar, and now the Holy V and Explorer.

Are any of these a match for Gibson’s classic designs such as the Les Paul, SG, ES-335, Firebird, Explorer and Flying V? No. Gibson never used to muck around with expensive and ultimately pointless limited edition models, so why do they feel the need now? They have always stuck to what they’re good at, which has produced some absolutely inspired pieces of guitar design, which is why it’s so infuriating when they don’t do what they’re good at, and play around with decidedly uninspired limited editions such as this.

We need less of this from Gibson, and more inspired designs like the aforementioned classics above.