REVIEW: G&L L-2500 5 string bass

The G&L story is quite a familiar one by now. Leo Fender and George Fullerton formed the company in 1980 to carry on the work begun in the 40s by Leo’s former, somewhat successful guitar company. Along the way they created such classic instruments as the Legacy and ASAT, as well as the Rampage model favoured by Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell.

Leo Fender invented the electric bass at Fender, so you would expect any such instrument from either of his namesake companies to be something pretty special. So how does the L-2500 stack up?

SPEC CHECK
The L-2500 is a 5-string bass which mates a swamp ash top to an American tilia back, with a bolt-on maple neck and rosewood or maple fretboard. The frets are a little smaller that I would expect in width, and also in height, but it all adds up for playing comfort and helps to offset any learning curve associated with the soft vintage V-shaped neck profile.

The test bass was finished is a gorgeous honey colour that’s practically edible, but it’s available in a range of finishes. Tuning keys are G&L’s Ultra-Lite design, and they are very solid in both operation and stability. The bridge is G&L’s innovating saddle lock design, with brass saddles for extra tonal punch. Electronics are a pair of G&L humbuckers which feed an active/passive preamp system consisting of 3 pots and 3 mini toggle switches.

CLEAN UP IN AISLE 3
Okay, now that the specs are out of the way… this is one heck of a bass. It feels like it’s a living, breathing thing, and notes sustain practically for days. The natural unplugged tone is good enough and full enough that it you were able to mic it up adequately, it could sit perfectly well within a pro mix – and it only gets better once you plug it in.

In terms of attack the L-2500 responds equally well to pick or fingers, and rolling back the treble makes way for a powerful, resonant John Paul Jones sound. The preamp system includes a 3 way toggle for pickup selection, another for series or parallel operation, and yet another to turn the preamp off, on, or on with a high end EQ boost. It might sound complicated but the only tricky thing about it is figuring out which sound to use, since they’re all great. With the flick of a switch you can go from a meat-and-potatoes rock sound to a hi-fi studio funk sound and back again. It’s exhilarating to have such versatility in a single instrument, and while other companies might try to pack a variety of sounds like this into their basses, what makes the L-2500 special is that each of its voices sounds good enough and ‘real’ enough that each could stand on their own if it was the only sound offered by the bass.

GIMMIEGIMMIEGIMMIE
I would be quite comfortable – in fact ecstatic – to add a bass like this to my recording arsenel and I’m a little sad to have to give it back after the review. The perfect playability means there’s nothing to get in the way of playing exactly what you hear in your head, while the huge range of tones means you can summon any sound you need with a minimum of fuss.

CLICK HERE to buy the G&L L-2500 5-String Bass Guitar Natural Gloss Rosewood from Music123 for $1,575.

PICKUPS: 2 G&L Magnetic Field humbucking pickups
BODY WOOD: Swamp Ash top on American Tilia back
NECK WOOD: Hard Rock Maple with Rosewood or Maple fingerboard
NECK RADIUS: 12″ (304.8mm)
NECK WIDTH AT NUT: 1 3/4″ (44.5mm)
TUNING KEYS: Custom G&L “Ultra-Lite” with aluminum tapered string posts
BRIDGE: G&L Saddle Lock with string through body configuration; chrome-plated brass saddles
CONTROLS: G&L Tri-Tone active/passive electronics, 3-way mini-toggle pickup selector, series/parallel mini-toggle, preamp control mini-toggle (off/on/on with high end EQ boost)
FINISH: Standard finishes included
OTHER: Chrome hardware; no pickguard; G&L molded hardcase included

REVIEW: Alice In Chains concert, Melbourne, Australia

Palais Theatre, St Kilda, February 26 2009.

The last time Alice In Chains toured Australia, I was still in high school and lived 4 hours away from the nearest capital city. The circumstances required for me to see them live were alarmingly insurmountable, and even after I moved to the big smoke and was geographically and economically able to see them, the tragic death of singer Layne Staley seemed to spell a permanent impasse to my ever witnessing them live. Jerry Cantrell has been one of my favourite players ever since I was about 14, so I was ultra-excited to be able to finally see him live.

Now, of course, Comes With The Fall vocalist William DuVall has taken up the front-and-centre position on stage, and within the first song of the night I’m sure anyone with lingering doubts about his place in the band had resolved to shut the hell up and just get on with having their socks rocked off. DuVall also provides rhythm guitar on certain key tracks, and is a very capable player.

I’ve heard reports from those who saw Alice In Chains back in the day that they were a less-than-inspiring live act, with dull stage presentation and sleepy musical delivery. How much of this is true I can’t really say, but the band who appeared on stage at the Palais last night were energetic and powerful, and certainly knew how to work a crowd. The set list included, but was not limited to, Angry Chair, Man In The Box (third song in!), Rain When I Die, Love Hate Love, Them Bones, Would? Rooster, No Excuses, Dirt, Junkhead and We Die Young.

In the years between Alice In Chains’ first incarnation and 2009, guitarist Jerry Cantrell seems to have picked up a more cultured, controlled vibrato, and was able to nail accurately-pitched bends with a confidence I don’t recall hearing in previous performances. Naturally it stands to reason that one’s playing will develop and evolve over a given time span, so this should come as no surprise, but the Jerry Cantrell on stage last night seemed to go that extra step beyond what the Jerry Cantrell of 1993 was capable of in terms of phrasing, dynamics and all out rock power. By the way, Cantrell still uses his original old G&L Rampage, as well as a few other Rampages, and some Gibson Les Pauls.

Mike Inez was, as always, a very solid player, keeping the sound full and powerful on any of the single-guitar songs in which Cantrell took solos. He seemed to be smiling all night, and locked in perfectly with drummer Sean Kinney’s behind-the-beat-yet-perfectly-in-time playing. Incidentally, I’m not sure how but Kinney has managed to not age one day since 1993. Dude must be into some kind of freaky age-defying voodoo.

Finally, special mention must be made of the band’s trademark vocal harmonies. Longtime fans of the band are surely well aware that Jerry Cantrell’s harmonies and backing vocals (and occasional lead vocal lines such as in the verses for Grind and Would?) were always an important part of the band’s sound. Well, despite the swapping of Staley for DuVall, Alice In Chains still sounds like Alice In Chains, and a big reason for that is that Jerry is still singing too. This is certainly not like in the case of Van Halen where the whole sound of any back catalogue songs changed when Sammy Hagar stepped into David Lee Roth’s gig.

If you haven’t seen the new version of Alice In Chains because you’re sceptical about whether they can hold it together and live up to their legacy, it’s time to put aside such concerns and check them out. Of course they’ll never be the same without Layne, but last night’s performance was a powerful demonstration that the Alice In Chains of 2009 deserves to be spoken of in the same reverential tones as the Alice In Chains of the 90s.

NEWS: Make your own talkbox

Kudos to Mrs I Heart Guitar for spotting this on the Make blog. Ever wanted to build your own talkbox for a little Peter Frampton or Jerry Cantrell vibe? Or are you in a cover band and you need to play Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ and/or ‘It’s My Life?’ Then you’re in luck! Everything you need to know to build your own talkbox is right here.

My personal favourite (though more subtle) talkbox moment: Alice In Chains’ ‘Man In The Box,’ where a talkbox track is mixed in with the rhythm guitars.

Don’t wanna make your own? Here are a few options:

Danelectro Free Speech Talk Box

Dunlop Heil Talk Box Standard

Rocktron Banshee Talk Box Standard

Here’s an early talkbox built by steel guitarist Pete Drake: