Sunday, April 5, 2009

Three Les Pauls

I've never been a fan of the Les Paul guitar... not that I don't love the sound, I do. Several of my all time favorite guitar recordings were made with Les Pauls!* I just never liked the feel of them... too heavy, oddly balanced, awkward to play sitting down, tough to play the upper register, pickup switch too far out of the way. It just wasn't me. Plus the image of Jimmy Page playing one down around his knees always annoyed the crap out of me... but I digress. I am not alone in shying away from the Les Paul, the line was discontinued a few years after it was introduced due to lack of sales and the SG was introduced to address all the above issues. But then in 1966 Eric Clapton played one on the Bluesbreaker's "Beano" album and their popularity exploded. That album was the defining moment of the Gibson/Marshall sound... and that Gibson was a Les Paul. Even so, I never wanted one.

Tonight a friend who is something of a guitar trader brought over three Les Pauls for me to check out, a Waren Haines signature model, a custom shop '58 reissue, and the 50th Anniversary model. He also brought over a nice little Fargen 2x12 amp. I played them all at various levels though both the Fargen & my JCM800 Marshall, carefully A-B'ing one against the other in different registers and volume settings, occasionally picking up the SG, 335 or Firebird to mix it up, switching amps etc, and I gotta say I really do like the sound of them. The Warren Haines model was my favorite, perhaps because it was loaded with WCR pickups, I'm not really sure. It sounded best when the little pre-amp inside was bypassed and I would describe the sound as being more detailed than the others, bright & clear yet full at the same time. The pre-amp seemed to kill the detail.

The 50th Anniversary was my next favorite, with Burstbuckers it was bright & clear but not quite as full sounding. The '58 reissue didn't have the clear voice of the other two and was a bit midrangy although they all had a basic similar sonic quality. It may be the pickup differences, I don't know. The WCR pickups seem to have something special going on. In conclusion I have to say I still don't like the feel of them for all the reasons I listed above (not to mention being ridiculously over-priced) but damn, they sure sound sweet. Maybe there will be a Les Paul in my future at some point. Yeah I think I could deal with that. Santa are you listening?

* Favorite Les Paul recordings:
Beano, Fresh Cream, The Inner Mounting Flame

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