Like the other cheap Gibsons I’ve tried recently, the general construction and care in assembly is very impressive for a guitar of this price, especially for an American made guitar. The new 61 pickups also look much more attractive than the black pickups in the 2013 version.
So on picking up the guitar you get a mid-weight Les Paul, much heavier that an SG or the slimmed down Melody Maker. Like all Les Pauls of my acquaintance, it feels bulky and clumsy against the ribcage – I admit it, I’m a fan of the Strat body contour and I don’t care who knows it. What I do like is how that thin nitro finish makes the guitar feel, it’s satiny and warm and you feel that if you could , this guitar would give you a nice cuddle. That sensation extends to the neck as well. It’s the same handful that you get on the SGJ, and the many virtues of that neck extend to this one as well. It fills the hand without feeling clumsy and still feels super-quick thanks to that satin finish. My model had a smooth piece of rosewood as well that helped some of those big bends.
In terms of feel then, I like this guitar and I don’t often say that about a Les Paul.
(once again – if you are buying a Gibson, play the one you intend to buy. This one was really well put together, the one next to it may not be)
Acoustically, it sounds alive, with quite a pronounced mid and treble character to the unplugged tone – lets see what happens when I plugged it in. (I’m using the clean tones from Tonestack and the heavy amps from Bias for this.)
The 61 bridge pickup has a lively, snappy quality on clean – there is more mid response than on the SGJ but it’s a tough, chewy sound with no hint of flabbiness. The SGJ has a more transparent feel to it and is better for country or funk but the LPJ has an articulate nature to the clean tone that I’ve not often seen in a Les Paul.
Revved up though, the tone really opens up. The SGJ with the same pickup has a waspish, aggressive character, the LPJ really sounds like it’s big brother. The tone is darker, more authoritative. Like the SGJ, this 61 unit is also very responsive to playing dynamics and that becomes more apparent as you whack the gain up. Once we hit Rectifier territory it’s pinched harmonics ago-go with oceans of sustain.
These 61 pickups are obviously built to a price but I’ve played them in several guitars and they are astonishingly good. In this Les Paul, you get pretty much the gamut of classic LP tones but with a mid-range clarity and definition as well that many LPs, even Custom shop jobbies, have not always had.
The neck pickup retains this clarity as well – on clean there is a bite to the tone which gives you more clean options than the normally uninspiring jazz-lite bridge pickup LP tone and distorted, there is a transparency to it that adds rather more than your routine flutey humbucker neck sound.
Really, its this clarity that makes this LPJ very special. There is little of the mush that you might be used to in an LP, and this comes through with both pickups. Played clean, there is an irresistible quacky funk tone on there. Nile Rodgers on an LP? yes, it can be done.
When it comes to these super-cheap Gibsons, I am at risk of sounding like a broken record. Well-built, lovely to play and sounding fantastic. They also keep their value incredibly well and they are the only Gibsons where you would not have a heart attack if you chipped the finish.
.If I had to choose, I perhaps prefer the even cheaper SGJ but it is a very, very close thing. The LPJ is certainty the most likable Les Paul I’ve played.
This LPJ is £567 with a gig bag, perhaps 25% of the cost of a Standard. The Standard has the bookmatched maple, and the bindings and the case and the heritage, But does it really, objectively sound better? Try this LPJ and you may have doubts.