- Apr 24, 2002
Litcrit said:Here's a dissenting voice. Obviously Big AL knows about the pickups and I agree about those, but I heartily DISAGREE about the '70's Norlin guitars. These are most often inert, rather toneless, shoulder breakers (HEAVY). The pancake body suffocates the resonance. Simply compare the acoustic tone of these to any 1 piece body guitar and you'll see. Yes, there are some exceptions: I had a really nice 70's standard that played well and sounded good, but most of these are like the 70's strats: corporate bean counter guitars made cheaply by a demoralized workforce. These are the guitars that STARTED the vintage craze becasue they were (and are) SUBSTANDARD. If you can buy one cheap, do it. Are they worth the $1000 plus prices? NOT TO ME. Better off with a 1 piece body post-Norlin guitar.
Lots of misinformation there. I'll state the obvious then explain.
This is meant to provoke thought and maybe stir things up alittle.
My style sounds rough and confrontational, but I don't mean it that way.
It is my barroom New Yorker argumentive style. I've got strong opinions and I'm not slamin' you Litcrit, as much as sayin' as we do up here, "Are you outta your friggen' mind?" "SUBSTANDARD?" Let me tell you all about it "
Norlin Les Pauls are not 50's Les Pauls. Neither are Historics.
They are not toneless or lifeless. They can break a shoulder.
They were not made by bean counters, but rather by proud skilled craftspeople who were not demoralized. They are not SUBSTANDARD.
Now the good stuff.
Norlins Les Pauls were made as a modern upgrade to the extinct originals(remember they BOMBED!). Thinking at that time was that heavy dense wood makes for better tone. This is true in many respects. Here are the truths.
A three piece neck is stiffer and more stable than a one piece. It has allways been a quality feature on Gibsons, and the BEST made guitars have allways featured them. Budget guitars got the one piece mahogany neck. Stiffer stable necks sound better. One piece mahogany necks are desireable on Les Paul reissues because it is a vintage spec. A one piece neck does not sound better than a laminate neck. I have compared many, done tests with great players with good ears and none of us could hear a difference that could be attributed to the neck. A soft neck or an instable one is easy to hear and pick out, it sounds like shit and is usually a one piece neck with a thin profile, though I recently played a freinds R9 with a soft fat neck that was a turd.
I want to meet the man who can hear the difference between a stiff stable onepiece neck and a three piece neck, 'cause he would be God.
Headstock pitch, shape and volute do seem to affect the tone and Norlin Les Pauls had them all. They also had small pegheads increased pitch and no volute. Each sounds different but none is better. Clearly if you want an authentic 50's tone, the 50's style tapered small voluteless steep pitched headstock will get you there. But I have heard wonderful tones from the Norlin design and though not as correct from a vintage point, they none the less produce a good tone that differs somewhat from vintage specs.
Things like Three Piece Maple or Mahogany Necks were unpopular with vintage "Why can't they make them like the 50's" fanantics, much like the ones you see here (I'm one too). Most people had no problem with them then and I still don't. They are well made functional necks that play and sound fine.
This is the main point of contention. They are not made like 50's. Most of the complaints are by people who value 50's burst above all else, and can see no other type. Anything that deviates from a 59 is caa caa. I've seen people foamin' at the mouth over the hue of the red in the burst, a multi piece neck can give such a person a stroke!
Lets talk bodies.
One piece bodies do not sound different than laminate ones. If they did you would HEAR the difference between 1974 sandwich bodies and 1975 one piece bodies. I've heard hundreds yet I've never spotted that thing that would define them tonewise by body construction. If you can you are a way better man than me.
I do prefer a onepiece body for it's look and obvious value, but I have owned many and still have a sandwich one because it sounds so freakin' good. Though I do not mind three piece necks in all honesty I would rather have a one piece body. Not for sonic but rather asthetic reasons.
Three piece maple is not as pretty, and I much prefer a two piece top, but I can't hear the difference. It is all about the look and I would say a three piece top has less visual quality than a centerseamed top. Again it is asthetics. Remember too that all those tonaly superiour 50's Goldtops had multi piece tops! So you can't argue about laminations. Firebirds have 7!!!
Resonance. Lets talk about resonance. Every Les Paul I have heard with a loud overly resonant acoustic tone sounded like a rubber guitar through an amp covered with a blanket. All that string energy that is vibrating the wood to create that acoustic tone is gone, sucked away by the wood and the pickup never sees it so your amp never reproduces it. Clashing out of phase frequencies further wool up the tone. You want toneless and lifeless? Don't look at the heavy stiff guitar.
Toneless and lifeless blanket statements are dead wrong in respect to these guitars. In fact a very good argument can be made that the reverse is true. Most heavy stiff guitars are louder, brighter and have a tighter bass. They have a huge sustaining tone. They lack some of the airy woody midrange of a vintage Paul but they ring with a loud clear voice with medium output alnicoV loaded Humbuckers and pure nickle strings. I have never, ever heard a dull, lifeless, toneless Les Paul from this era that was in good shape and stock condition. Things like hot ceramic overwound Humbuckers and stainless or plated stainless strings do not help them.
They were beautifuly made.
Binding, finish and woodwork is excellent on these guitars. They were made as well as ever, then. Nothing in the 70's was even close.
There are other distinctions too. Norlins came in many flavors.
First types were Sandwich bodied, 3 piece Mahogany Neck then 3 piece Maple Neck ones. Many sound awesome. These were only made for about 4 years.
Next came the one piece bodied 3 piece neck ones. Still lots of good sounding ones. Both had a preponderence of 3 piece tops but 2 piece tops aren't that rare. These were made until 82 or so.
In 80 they had both one piece, and my favorite Three piece, Vintage style necks, with small headstocks, no volutes and 17 degree headstock pitch. Bookmatched Flame tops made a reappearence then too.
By 83 Norlin Les Pauls had one piece bodies, one piece mahogany necks, deep dish carve and vintage style small headstock without volute and bookmatch tops were more common. By the end in 87 they were allmost allways bookmatched.
That is just Standards. Norlin had some cool models and good ideas. Some of which I'd like to see again. They were well made and in general sound good. They are not 50's replica's. We have Historics for that. They are excellent Les Pauls. They are not the holy grail, nor are they the best ever made. They may not even be collectable, (I think they are and look to Mike Slub for inspiration), or fetish instruments but, they made some stellar music that is still emulated today. I'd say take a good honest look and listen to one with an open mind, you might rediscover something besides substandard. As far as any modern guitar killing a Deluxe dead... bullshit! That is one ignorent statement. As for Gibson's modern day propaganda, are you that gullable? They are trying to sell you on new product. HYPERBOLE. With a list price better than 3K, and soon to go up they better be good. I'm excited about the new Standard and think it is a good thing. Can't wait to try one out.
But I do not look to Gibson for truth. Truth is on the stage and in the studio and rings in my ears and lays in my hands. Listen to my cut on the first Forum CD for a Norlin Les Paul in action, that's the truth, and it ain't substandard.