Start talking about Les Paul’s – or even Gibson in general – and you’re sure to spark off a heated debate. Most of the negative comments are about how over-priced Les Pauls are in proportion to their quality; lately, there has been lots of talk about how stupid Gibson has acted with sourcing exotic tone woods, and how the consumer pays the price, etc., etc., etc… I’ve heard ‘em all, and I get people’s anger or frustration, but I still love the Les Paul in all its various versions; well, at least with the exception of the BFG Dusk Tiger and the absolutely FUGLY Gecko Burst.
From a player’s perspective, I’ve never bonded more with a guitar than I have with a Les Paul; especially the historic re-issues (pre-’60′s). Not sure why because Les Pauls used to scare the crap out of me. It was purely psychological, but I used to equate a Les Paul with some of my favorite players, and I used to get this, “I’m not worthy” kind of feeling. But luckily my good buddy Jeff Aragaki, who is a Les Paul collector helped in encourage me to get a Les Paul. And when I finally got my ’58 Historic Reissue, that completely changed the game for me.
A fallout of getting into Les Pauls was also getting into the history of the guitar. Plus, with Jeff always talking about collectors pieces, then introducing me to the book, “The Beauty of the Burst, ” I was solidly hooked on Les Pauls. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than the burst finish of a Les Paul; especially the vintage models. Speaking of vintage models, there’s a huge collectors market for vintage Les Pauls, with the 1959 models garnering prices in the neighborhood of $500,000. That’s out of the reach of most people, and us mere mortals can only hope to see one in our lifetimes, let alone hold one.
But Gibson, knowing how popular the vintage models have been over the years, has recently released a reproduction of a coveted 1959 owned by collector, called Collectors Choice #6, Mike Subowski (shown in the picture above). However, unlike the Historic Reissues, this reproduction was constructed to the exact measurements and tolerances of the original Les Paul. Even the pickups were meticulously wound to closely match the original pickups. If the Historic Reissues capture the “spirit” of the vintage models, the Collectors Choice tries to reproduce the vintage guitar rather than being built in the style. This is exciting to me because it’s about the closest I’d get to actually playing a true vintage model.
Another plus to this guitar is that it’s nice and shiny, as the original guitar was very clean. That’s VERY appealing to me because I just don’t “get” the relic thing. Give me a nice, shiny guitar, and let me relic it myself through years of use. The burst finish on this guitar is also spectacular. Though they call it a “Tobacco Burst,” the brown is a little more red than your typical tobacco brown. I love the reddish hue to that brown. It reminds me of a cross-section of a nectarine.
With respect to the Collectors Choice series, these guitars are limited run guitars produced by the Gibson Custom Shop. They’re close to exact reproductions of the original guitars, and each original guitar is measured to minute specifications using digital analysis, so there’s very little guesswork in taking measurements. These are special guitars with a limited run of 300 per model. So far they’ve only done 1959 and 1960 models. I’m hoping they get a hold of a ’58. THAT’s a guitar that I would definitely buy.