A restrained little wallflower is the White Falcon. Easy to miss in a room full of guitars…actually, that is a lie. The one I was going to play was sandwiched between a rack of Fender Custom Shop beauties and a pile
of Gretsch lovelies and even in that exalted company, you could have spotted it a mile away.
The Falcon is 60 years old in 2015 and with a Tele or a Strat you would talk about timeless design, not with the White Falcon, it screams “1955!” at you and is infused with that glorious 1950’s combination of confidence and innocence. In our mean, banker-dominated age, could we have come up with something as outrageous as this.
And outrageous it is, coming in at a sliver under £3,000 this is not even the US Custom Shop version but is the product of a (very, very good) Japanese factory. It looks heartbreakingly lovely, the pristine white finish, the hardware dripping with gold plate and that beautiful gold sparkle binding. Even if you never played it just the appearance would go a long way towards justifying that price tag. In your hands it is a much more manageable thing than you might expect, light thanks to that hollow body, it even hugs the body much more comfortably than you might think.
As you would hope from a high-en Japanese workshop, the construction and finish are flawless. There is no nitro here (which you might expect at this price) but at least that urethane coat will keep the Falcon’s colour as glacial as you’d want for much longer.
The ebony fingerboard and frets are lovingly set up and the 12” radius and 25.5” scale give an instantly familiar playing surface, even if the finish on the back of the neck can get a little sticky.
Grover Imperial machine heads give a pleasing retro fell while at the other end I a floating ebony bridge and Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. This is a glorious site, glowing with gold plate, it is also the Achilles heel of this particular guitar, of which more later.
Electrics are 2 Filtertron pickups and as great a thing as a Cabronita is, this is the sort of guitar it was made for.
Acoustically, this is a loud, lovely thing with a surprisingly rich tone but plugged in you really get the power of these quite lovely pickups. Clean at the neck gives you a jazz tone to die for, plummy, rich but with definition. The tone switch cuts some of the bass but seems to boost the mids a little, creating brasher, clangier tones for blues and country. Indeed, the versatility of this guitar is astounding. The bridge pickup loves overdrive, its a more varied, textured tone than your average humbucker and keeps its essential character even when you really pile the dirt on. Hey, you can shred on this even if the neck is not the fastest.
So it is a supremely versatile guitar, but so are so many modern guitars. But what this can do better than any Fender or Gibson is to channel your inner Brian Setzer. You can play jazz, blues, funk and rock from the Who to Pantera, but nothing (except another Gretsch) rips out classic 1950’s rock n’roll like this. It is lunatic, bonkers fun.
But there is one flaw, that Bigsby adds a lovely warble to things but tuning was knocked out everytime – very careful set up is needed for this one.
It is beautifully made, sounds epic and is just lovely to look at. Just play it and that price tag suddenly makes sense.