Gibson unveiled their collaboration with guitar pioneer Les Paul in 1952, but it took a few years for the guitar to find its feet. In fact, despite the release of now-coveted models in 1958 and 1959, the Les Paul was – gasp! – discontinued by Gibson during 1961, not to resurface until 1968. The very idea of discontinuing the Les Paul is utterly unfathomable now, so it’s hard to think of it as just …gone. After its 1968 introduction, the Les Paul kicked around in various forms, and has done so ever since. The Les Paul Studio model was launched in 1983 to offer a cost-conscious alternative to the fully kitted-out Paul, and now there are several versions. While all are still made in the USA, a few clever little cost-cutting methods are used, particularly in the finish and cosmetics areas, to keep the price low while maintaining USA construction.

[geo-out country=”Australia” note=””]CLICK HERE to buy the Gibson Limited Run Les Paul Studio ’60s Tribute from Musician’s Friend.[/geo-out]

The Les Paul Studio 60s Tribute is a limited run which pays tribute to, obviously, 60s Les Pauls, particularly the P90-loaded models that came out when the run resumed in 1968 – an often overlooked part of Les Paul history. The unbound chambered mahogany body has a carved maple top, but the finish is a rough matte affair rather than a thick glossy finish like some other Studios.

In an interesting little twist, the model is available in five 50s – rather than 60s – colours: Worn Gold Top, Worn Honey Burst, Worn Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Worn Ebony and Worn White. I reviewed the Honey Burst model. The ‘worn’ finish doesn’t quite look or feel like an actual old instrument – it’s not designed to be a relic’d finish, in other words – but it has its own lived-in vibe. (There are a few spots around the edges where the finish appears to have not been applied evenly, which is a bit of a shame as it’s quite noticeable in a few spots in particular).

The neck is unbound and made of quarter-sawn mahogany with a rosewood fretboard, acrylic trapezoid position-marker inlays and a Corion (synthetic bone) 1.695″ nut. There are 22 medium-jumbo frets on the flattish 12″ radius fretboard, and the back of the neck is Gibson’s 60s SlimTaper carve.

The electronics consist of a pair of Gibson P90 pickups as used on the first Les Pauls from 1952 to 56 and on that 1968 Les Paul reissue. These pickups use Alnico V magnets, and the controls are as you’d expect: individual volume (300k linear) and tone (500k non-linear) pots for each pickup, plus a three-way pickup selector switch.

This SlimTaper neck is actually a bit beefier than most 60s-style Les Pauls I’ve played. It’s not as club-like as the 50s variant but there’s certainly enough plank to get your hands around here. It’s the kind of neck that makes you want to really dig in and squeeze notes for all they’re worth, or to choke the daylights out of aggressive chords. It’s not really a shredder’s neck but it’ll give you plenty of attack and impact for hard rock and blues styles.

The P-90 is not exactly the quietest pickup in the world. If you turn the gain up too high you will get a bit of background noise, but what the hell! This is rock and roll! These pickups sound great with some heavy overdrive, with plenty of midrange and a nice treble zing that gets rolled off before it gets up into the really harsh range. The bridge unit has a percussive, angry bite to it, and it’s great for classic rock riffage around the 5th to 7th frets, as well as ringing open chords. Although power chords sound great, it really kicks ass on single-note riffs and on stripped-back lead work. Add enough gain (and minimise the hum with whatever means are at your disposal) and this pickup can give you great rock or fusion legato sounds too.

The neck unit is dripping with bluesy cool, and even though the two pickups are technically identical, the neck P90 is a lot louder than the bridge (this is because the strings vibrate less at the bridge end). The result is a hot-rodded tone that will drive your amp just that little bit harder when you switch to this pickup for a solo. Again, it sounds great for single note lines, and provides nice note separation in clean chords. The combined pickup setting sounds great too, especially for airy chord work and low-down blues.

The Gibson USA Les Paul Studio 60s Tribute packs an awful lot of US-built charm and tone in to a little package. The relative low cost and un-fancy finish of this instrument means you won’t be too shy about battering it around, and will instead play the hell out of it, as it should be. It sounds great, and although the finish quality isn’t amazing, the tone certainly is and it’s a joy to play. By the way, it’s also available left-handed.


[geo-in country=”Australia” note=””]This is an extended version of a review I originally wrote for Mixdown magazine.[/geo-in]