1958 Gibson Reissue
I have been using nothing but a Les Paul all my short but not entirely uneventful life. I used Les Pauls for recording my first and second CD, and until recently, wherever I perform in Hong Kong or Japan I used a Les Paul. The Les Paul was my shadow and I never leave home without it; it is simple is a case of nothing-is-good-enough-but-a-Les-Paul. There are of course two schools, the Fender School and The Les Paul School. Few people sit on the fence and fewer could stand the arguments for the other school. A Fender is a simply piece of wood with a bolt on neck, the sound is thin, twangy and just doesn’t have the meat. In short, it is just a cheap and reliable Japanese car, reliable but has no class or refinement. Some signature series of Fender ask for over HK$15,000.00. I would rather give that amount to the Community Chest. The Gibson is a real piece of art, fully contoured body, dovetailed neck joint, body binding and tilted headstock, two (sometimes 3) humbuckers, strong out put, crunchy and meaty; in short a Rolls Royce, something classy and refined. Why be a beggar when you can be a king? Well, then and again you are listening from someone from the old Gibson Schools. In a word, I hate Fenders and would not be seen dead with one but I will die with a Les Paul anytime.
A closer view of the 1958 Reissue
Alas, in explaining
the special attributes of Les Paul, you have to mention the Fender.
Quite besides the workmanship, the sound of the two are completely different.
A few things account for the difference in sound between the two :-
Now not every Gibson sounds good; as a matter of fact, most of them don’t sound very good. The standard Les Paul production models are going for something like HK$12,000.00. With that kind of money, there are many choices open. Music Man is one of the obvious choices, Ibanez another, Yamaha yet another. You might not be able to tell whether a Gibson sounds good or very good until you have compared a production model with one of the Historic Series Les Paul. A poor man at his hut and a rich man at his castle. The Les Paul Reissues are simple the best guitars in the worlds. The sound is rich, the tone is full and creamy and craftsman top of the pile. All you need to do is to plug it into any amplifier and it is difficult to get a bad sound. The 58 and 59 Les Paul Reissues have different neck joints, much deeper and more sophisticated than your production model. In terms of appearance, it is difficult to tell the difference. Some tiger strip Classics look very good indeed but the sound is often disappointing.
In releasing the Historic Series, Gibson has paid attention to the last detail; from every single screw, every pick-up down to the dye on the guitar are virtually identical to the original guitars made in the late 50’s. The booklet that accompanies the my 58 Reissue stated that the dye used in the 58 Les Pauls were unstable and will seep through to the binding on the neck after a few weeks of the guitar being played and that should not be considered a defect. What nonesene, I thought. I was so surprised when after a couple of weeks’ playing the binding on the neck was stained red. Incredible. But it really shows how proud the Gibson people are and how meticulous they have been in faithfully reproducing instruments that belong to a by-gone era. With the Gibson Historic series, Gibson basically reproduced the 58 Les Pauls with all the virtues of the 1958 models but also with all the faults. Here are a few things you would want to bear in mind when you are thinking about spending your money :-
Now if you can put up with all that and, of course, if you can afford it, you will have no regrets buying a 58 or 59 Les Paul Reissue. These guitars will deliver the sound and tone of the real thing; or as close to the real thing as one can get. You will feel in your hands a piece of history, you cannot help but admire the finishing, worship the flamed maple tops and savour the beautify of these instruments. This is vintage red wine. You have to taste it to understand. These guitars are so beautiful you could almost smell their fragrance. I would certainly be buried with one when I go.
Just a few words on getting the best sound out of a Les Paul. The bridge pick-up is the warmest but it is also very bassy. What I do is I trim down the bass and turn the tremble and presence of the amplifier all the way up and use the tone button on the guitar to control the high end. If you want a sharper tone, the bridge pick-up is the obvious choice. You will feel a drop in out put when you switch to the bride pick up. The way to compensate this is to make sure you have the volume knob of the neck pick up no higher than 8 and have the volume of the bridge pick up on full. You should also adjust the bridge pick up as close to the strings as possible but just enough to avoid string pull from the pick up.
With the Les Pauls, the weakest part of the guitar is the titled neck. By make the neck tilted, the grain of the wood is broken and this makes the neck very brittle. Always put a Les Paul on a stand, never lean it against an amplifier. Once the neck is broken, you will lose the sound even if it is fixed by a Class A repairman. A Les Paul, unlike a Fender, is not a guitar you can throw around. It is a guitar that requires love and care and attention.
Lastly, these instruments
are meant to played and not left lying in their hard case for occasion
exhibition when a friend calls. You should use them at every opportunity,
that is the only way to get their worth. If I buy an expensive overcoat,
I will wear it at every single opportunity even when I go to the fish
market.A 58’s Les Paul costs around HK$32,000 to HK$35,000.00. Whether
a block of wood with some screws and a few metal parts are worth that
kind of money is up to you. But all I can say is if you can get over the
problem with the thickness of the neck, you will not regret a single moment.
You will, most likely, like me, end up getting another one.