I saw it on the walls of Bargain Stores in 1982 (alas, Bargain Stores, theatre of dreams to many young guitarists in North Wales, is no more). TV Yellow with 34 years of knicks and bumps. That body shape, that neck join, simplicity elevated to high art. The 1958 Les Paul Junior.
Even now, there is something
about a stripped down double cutaway Les Paul that gets my juices flowing. Is it the austerity that strips away all the glintz and flab that make many Standards so uninspiring? But despite being a design classic since 1958 Gibson seem unsure about how to treat it, and for long periods of time it was never available for sale at all.
But as part of the …controversial… 2015 line up, it’s back, kinda. And what we have here is something that raises a glass to the legend of the past but which also takes many of the contemporary tropes of Gibson’s view of the future, with mixed results.
But first impressions first, I open the really rather nice Gibson hard case that is standard for 2015 and pull out something that looks a long way from the classic LP double cut. The horns are more pronounced and rounded and the neck join is much further down the neck compared to the 1958 neck join. More robust I’m sure but you lose some of that upper note access and it is just not as elegant as I had hoped.
The effect is not ugly by any means and the whole guitar is much closer in appearance to some early 1980s solid 335s – it is an attractive guitar, but lacks that extraordinary timeless elegance of the LP junior doublecut.
My guitar was finished in Heritage Cherry nitro and like most of the cheaper Gibsons I’ve played over the last year the finish is pretty much flawless. The body is multi piece but the matching had been done very well on this one and you would struggle to see the join. There is no routing or elegant curves here, you get a solid, flat lump of pretty dense mahogany. It feels heavy for a guitar that is quite small but felt comfortable both standing and sitting. Though after a two hour gig, you may feel differently.
The neck is a single piece of mahogany with a decent slab of rosewood on top. It’s binded, a surprise considering the plainness of the body. It is also wide – I’ll be going into more detail when I play the thing, but the 2015 neck width and profile has got message boards and comments here more than a little heated up.
But finishing is pretty good with neatly applied binding and well polished frets. Indeed the setup – once again a common feature with cheap Gibsons over the past 2 years – is very good right out of the case with only a little alteration of the bridge required.
At the top you have the oddly annoying Les Paul 100 silk screened on and the even more annoying hologram at the back. Peg heads are the G-force robotic tuners. AND I KNOW THAT YOU ALL HAVE AN OPINION ON THESE…..but this is what we have, Gibson have decreed that you have to use them and I’ll be returning to the subject when I play the thing.
The rest of the hardware is a couple of black P90s that look a little cheap, a wrap-round bridge that looks even cheaper and a couple of rather flimsy knobs and a switch.
But the whole effect is of a solidly put together guitar, well finished and very attractive but looking tough and stripped down enough for some serious gigging. But what does it sound like and what does it feel like to play…..I’ll tell you tomorrow.