For my sound checks I used a Fender Blues Junior and a lovely ’65 Twin reissue. I also played the Baja through Bias and my new love, Tonestack.
So it’s a Tele, I had to whack it through the Twin. For many years I was biased against the Tele because of unhappy experiences with a 1978 and a 1981. Both expensive guitars that simply sounded horrible. Painfully shrill clean, muddy when distorted. I though all Teles were meant to sound like this.
This Baja is simply on a higher plane. Through the Twin the bridge pickup simply explodes in sparklyness. It is the sonic equivalent to a lemon sorbet, sweet, bright and refreshing. Chord work is wonderfully full with all the notes just blending together so well.
Solo work? I’ve spent a lot of time recently doing very, very bad Scotty Anderson impersonations (check him out on youtube, sensational country player) and the tone this guitar pushes out is stunning. Definition is full and bright but everything seems coated in a rich, subtle creamy tone that makes it very hard to stop playing (I’m still playing as I type). Wound up on the Blues Junior, the tone gets a bit darker (that rosewood board?) and there is clarity and definition that never descends to the dreaded icepick through the forehead effect.
Even with distortion wound up on Bias there is always a richness and clarity to the sound – it really is almost impossible to get a bad tone out of this.
Position 2 gives you bridge and neck in parallel and a creamy, juicy tone that of course is perfect for funk but has a touch-sensitive character that really opens up as you dig into the strings – it’s a great solo tone as well.
Position 3 is a brilliant neck tone – it’s like the juiciest Strat neck tone with a more pronounced middly bite. Of course it will do the Hendrix/SRV thing but there is a great jazz tone and push the distortion and you have a lovely flutey tone that is great for anything from 80’s poodle rock to a bit of fusion jazz.
Position 4 is the biggie – both pickups in series and this means it turns the, into the biggest, warmest, juiciest, fur-lined, ocean going humbucker of all time. Of course it sounds great clean but through a vintage-type overdriven amp (Tonestack’s Anglia model is a very happy choice here) it is simply wild. A gorgeus, warm, living tone that responds so well to your technique. It is also as good a 1969 Jimmy Page tone as I’ve heard. It will shred very happily but it is in that space with the dirt turned down that it truly sounds its best.
And there is more – engaging the S-1 switch hollows out the tone on all the settings. To my ears, the effect seems much more subtle than on the old Baja and in consequence much more musical and usable. The S-1 tones on the 50’s Baja were so different and so hollowed out that I could only think of them as useful for some funk playing. On the 60’s Baja, the changes are much more modest but much more useful. The S-1 tones are meant to be the core of this guitars tone, but now they really add to the palette.
So for you £665 you get a well made Telecaster that will survive anything short of a direct missile attack and bring you happiness and joy for the next 65 years. You also get one of the best sounding guitars I’ve played in years. If I’m pushed, I prefer the snappier attack and beefier neck of the original Baja (and I am a sucker for the butterscotch and black pickguard combination) But the slightly darker and sweeter tone of the 60s Baja is a thing of rare beauty and provides a perfect contrast. Hell, get both for about the same as a US Standard and you’ll have some of the greatest Tele tones Fender has ever made. £665? It is a bargain.