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Posts Tagged ‘les paul’

Dug this one up today…

A few years ago, while I was on vacation just on the outskirts of the Portland metropolitan area, and on my way to the Oregon Coast, I happened to stop at a little music store to see what gems they might have (remember, I picked up a gorgeous 1981 ES 335 in a music store in a little town in Northern California). Well, making that stop was fateful because I found the VHT Special 6, a point-to-point, hand-wired, 6 Watt powerhouse that knocked my socks off!

Once I got home, I recorded this song with the amp, using my Les Paul ’58 Historic Reissue. It’s called “Beauty and the Burst,” and it’s a rocker.

The song itself is nothing technically masterful, but when I heard it again after all these years, I had to smile and ask myself, “Where the hell did you pull that one out of?” Enjoy!

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I know what you’re thinking… yet another new PAF pickup manufacturer; and you’d be right. But I’m pretty intrigued by what Deacci is offering based on what I read in their “About” page:

And this is where something special started to happen… taking inspiration from the mathematical sequences that underpin so much of nature’s seemingly random distribution, from flower petals to seed heads, Deacci created a winding distribution methodology based on the Fibonacci sequence that’s resulted in a range of pickups that deliver the very best of those vintage sets but with a consistency and purity that’s hard to achieve with hand wound pickups.

Fibonacci numbers? Those are nature’s magic numbers! 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… Creating a ratio between adjacent numbers in the Fibonacci sequence form what the Greeks called the “Golden Ratio” or “Golden Mean,” (0.61538461538462…) the perfect balance. You see the Fibonacci numbers everywhere in nature! For instance, the number of clockwise rows of “eyes” on a pineapple versus the number of counter-clockwise rows are adjacent Fibonacci numbers. The length of your hand versus the length of your forearm create a Golden Mean. Pretty amazing stuff.

So if it works in nature, why not apply it to technology? Apparently, Deacci has devised a scatter-winding methodology that employs the Fibonacci sequence. Who knows how this will make the pickups sound? But it definitely is a unique approach, and frankly, since they’re going after discrete numbers, it would mean that there will be much less variation and much more consistency between different pickups of the same make as you find with PAFs (imagine the winders that were originally used to wind PAF pickups were made for winding yarn).

Of course, there’s no guarantee, except for hearing them, and from the sound clips I’ve heard thus far, these are very nice-sounding pickups. I’m going to be getting a set of the their “Green Faze” pickups based upon Peter Green’s ’59 Les Paul’s PAF’s. Very excited about that as I will be putting them into my ’58 Re-issue to brighten up its naturally warmer tone – especially in the neck pickup. I’ll be doing a review in the next few weeks! Stay tuned!

For more information, visit the Deacci Pickups site!

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sunburstLike many Les Paul vintage and vintage-style “Burst” owners, I’ve acquired a fascination not only with the guitar itself, but with the history of the Les Paul; from the various guitars’ provenance to the stories of how people have gained ownership of them. Could be new, could be old, doesn’t much matter to me. There’s a magic about a Burst that seems to force owners to search beyond the wonderful tone they produce.

So when “Sunburst…” by Tony Bacon was released, I knew that I had to get a copy to review it. I was intrigued by the sub-title because it seemed to be the first book that I can recall that dared broach this subject. Oh, people have documented some interesting historical tidbits about various Les Pauls, and I’ve read and heard many accounts.

Admittedly, I was expecting sort of a scholarly treatise on the subject of how the Les Paul gained legendary status. In that fashion, the author/researcher will “put a stake in the ground” then build his or her argument around it to prove their point. In this case though, Tony Bacon doesn’t do that. Instead he uses a chronology of events – specifically the acquisition of Les Pauls by famous and influential guitarists from the early 60’s to the present day – to infer that the guitar gained legendary status because of these events. In other words, instead of directly answering the “why” he describes the “how,” all the while assuming the Les Paul is a legendary instrument.

That’s actually a clever approach as it allows him to avoid the inevitable debates and challenges that invariably accompany a “why” argument. Here, Tony Bacon assumes the reader already knows the Les Paul is legendary and he uses historical and allegorical commentary to enforce the guitar’s legendary status. Frankly, it’s great storytelling, going back to the 60’s, starting with Clapton’s first Les Paul, and closing out with today’s Les Paul giants such as Joe Bonamassa.

But intermixed with the storytelling is also a bit of analysis from a collector’s point of view. Again, Mr. Bacon doesn’t necessarily take a stand, but it’s clear he sharing tidbits he has gleaned from conversations with collectors. Let’s face it, Bursts are highly coveted guitars, so having a discussion not just from the point of view of great players but also collectors is valuable as it lends further insight into the Les Paul’s legendary status.

A thing that I noticed is that the author doesn’t really go into monetary value of the various guitars all that much. For goodness’ sake, we know how much some of these guitars – especially the ’59’s – have gone for at auction. Instead, his focus is on what has turned players on to the Les Paul all these years. The end result for me is that in reading this book, I feel a whole lot better about owning a couple of Les Pauls. I even got some ammunition on justifying to my wife my expenditures to get mine. It’s all good! 🙂

So… do I recommend the book? Absolutely! It’s a quick read, but I daresay I spent a lot of time salivating over the pictures.

You can find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sunburst-Gibson-Standard-Became-Legendary/dp/161713466X

There are also a number of listings on EBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/310911669126?lpid=82

5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! The writing style is familiar but also knowledgeable, and I’ve actually been carrying in my backpack since I got it to pull it out when I’ve got free time.

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When Biting Is Good…

At this past Sunday night’s Mass, I got the rare opportunity to crank my Aracom VRX18 AND play it loud. This only happens if the church is packed (which it was), and we break out the full trap set (which only happens when both our drummer and bassist are present). So, knowing that both were going to be there, I planned out a much more lively set than usual. Based upon the plan, I decided to go with a classic Plexi/Les Paul combination; specifically my Aracom VRX18 Plexi clone and “Amber,” my R8 Les Paul.

Invariably, I use this particular combination because it has “bite.” At least, that’s what I call it. “Bite” to me is a bright tonal character when overdriving an amp; the highs are certainly present, but not so over the top that they’re like icepicks. They’re at that level where they provide the clarity and note separation yet are still balanced with the overall sound. But on top of that, “bite” ensures you break through the mix. There’s nothing like muddy tone to get you lost in a mix. With bite, you’ll never get lost in the mix.

AmberI can achieve that bite with just about any guitar I have, but there’s a certain magic that happens when I crank the VRX18 and play a Les Paul through it. And while that amp/guitar combination sounds fantastic, when you throw the incredible Jensen Jet Falcon speaker into the fray and combine its breakup characteristics into the output, the result is absolutely magical.

So in this case, biting is good!

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Les Paul Stars of the 60’s

I don’t normally forward stuff that I read in other sources, but I thought I’d forward this particular article I read on Gibson’s site. The article covers 10 Les Paul Players of the 60’s and their histories with the venerable Les Paul. Here they are:

  1. Eric Clapton
  2. Freddie King
  3. Jeff Beck
  4. Jimmy Page
  5. Hubert Sumlin
  6. Keith Richards
  7. Paul Kossoff
  8. Peter Green
  9. Michael Bloom
  10. George Harrison

I’m not one of those super-fans that know every niggling detail about a particular player, so the real surprise for me was George Harrison. I always thought he played an archtop in the 60’s. I had no idea he played a Les Paul. Oh well… the things you find out. 🙂

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goldtop

Saw this on Facebook and had to share it. Here’s the accompanying blurb:

Gibson Custom has reformulated its Goldtop finish to match the original’s deep, dark, gold luster. The Goldtop’s back is also reformulated to match the original from the 1950s.

In the case of the updated Gold, you will notice a deeper, richer finish with a slightly “greener” caste. On the guitar’s back, you will see a noticeable increase in the visibility of mahogany grain and a more severe effect on the final color that comes from the wood’s individual personality. As it was in the 1950s, each guitar back results in a very individual look, based on the use of vintage finish formulations and application techniques, and the characteristics of each individual piece of wood.

That’s pretty awesome if you’re into Les Pauls, and a part of me is saying, “Oooh. I want one.” But the more pessimistic side of me is peaking out and saying, “Nice. Now let’s see what surcharge they’ll apply to these…”

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One of the guitarists in my church band recently got a Carr Mercury, which is a great little amp. In addition to sporting vintage styling, it has some great power scaling from 8 Watts down to 1/10 Watt, a three-position boost to vary the drive to the single EL34 power tube, and a very nice and liquid reverb. All in all, it sounds pretty killer. Add my bandmate’s Barron Wesley custom guitar, and it’s a great tone combo!

But as he plays next to my rig, which consists of a Les Paul going into an Aracom PLX18BB Trem (“PLX”) which is a clone of the very simple Marshall 18 Watt Plexi, I felt the Carr’s tone paled in comparison to the tone my rig produces. Mind  you, the Carr sounds  killer. But in comparison to the PLX, its attack is much faster, and there’s noticeably less sag from rectifier than the PLX, so my perception is that there’s not much sustain with the amp..

Granted, I realize this is purely subjective, but there is something very special about the PLX. Perhaps it’s due to that classic “Bluebreaker” tone – hence the BB designation of the amp – that Clapton made so popular while with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. The Les Paul/Plexi combination is absolutely magical. Perhaps it’s also due in part to the absolute simplicity of the 18 Watt Plexi’s circuitry. Or perhaps it’s due to how the amp sags that gives it this almost reverb-like tone. Whatever it is, it’s a tone with which I completely identify.

I realize that I probably mention the PLX in this blog more than any amp that I have or have tested. But it has become my “go-to” amp. As the title of this article says, some rig combinations just never get old.

In front of the PLX, I have just a few pedals because I like to keep things simple. Here’s the complete chain:

Les Paul R8 -> Timmy Overdrive -> TC Electronic Corona Chorus -> Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay (handwired) -> DigiTech RV-7 Reverb -> Aracom PLX18 BB Trem -> Aracom PRX150 Attenuator -> Fane Medusa 150 12″ speaker.

I typically only use the  delay and reverb when playing clean, which is actually quite a bit.  But when I’m  playing driven, either with the Timmy or with the amp cranked, I just let the amp speak for itself. 🙂

I mentioned the sag of the PLX. It’s not so saggy that you get a lot of crosstones. But Jeff Aragaki (amp builder) did find a sweet spot in setting up the rectifier that balanced the classic responsiveness of the original Plexi with enough sag in the rectifier to make the amp absolutely expressive.

I made some modifications of my own in the way of tubes. I have gorgeous 1959 RCA grey glass pre-amp tubes in it to drive the pre-amp. I actually kept the original JJ EL84 power tubes in the amp because they compress quite nicely when driven without over-compressing into mush. Then to add fatness, I dropped in the gorgeous, super-sensitive (103 dB) Fane Medusa 150 12″ speaker. Combine that with a large 1 X 12 combo cabinet, and you’ve got a nice resonating chamber for the speaker which adds further depth to the tone.

Upon writing the above, I think a huge reason why I love the tone of this amp so much as compared to the Carr probably has a lot to do with the size of the cabinet, which can also easily house 2 10″ speakers.  That extra room for the sound to bounce around creates a lot of complexity.

 

In any case, that particular combination of gear never gets old to me. Even though I have lott of other guitars and amps, when I gig, I go to that setup. Now if only Jeff will build me my FlexPlex 50… 🙂

 

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