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My date with "Alberta" (0 0285)

ChevChelios

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Joined
Jan 22, 2012
Messages
774
Okay, here’s the English (and radically shortened) version of the original “Holy grail oder holy crap?” article I wrote for the German Musikerboard.de forum a couple weeks ago.

Recently, I published an article on the MB forum that dealt with upgrades to enhance the sonic and practical features of a Les Paul. People seem to have liked it quite a bit so I got asked to write another one. Being a Les Paul-maniac myself, I finally decided that it would be cool to do a comparison of a superb Gibson Historic Les Paul (my 2002 R8) with an original Les Paul from the glorious years 58-60. The main reason to do that was because it is almost impossible to get your hands on an original in Germany, so Les Paul fans eventually have to settle for articles and stories by people that have access to these most precious guitars.

Luckily, my friend Jay (the founder and owner) of Emerald City Guitars in Seattle owns two original Les Pauls and was kind enough to let me sit in with his beautiful early 1960 Standard. So I ended up engrossing half of his store with my Historic, recording tools, an old-fashioned notebook (yeah, sheets of paper, a pen … vintage-style, you name it!), a wonderful blackface Fender Vibrolux … and Alberta - serial number 0 0285 and a lot of stories to tell.

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Wow, this baby definitely had seen numerous stages, had gone through several beer showers (probably including the bottles), and – most important of all – had been rocked pretty hard in the last 52 years of her life. The red is almost completely gone, the color’s somewhere between teaburst and amber. The whole guitar is covered with dings and dongs, a previously installed Bigsby has left some distinctive scars (now it is re-converted to the original tailpiece), and some parts had been lost and changed over the years. A note aside: even though the top shows a dominant fading, there’s hardly any super-obvious weather checking (as found very often on aged reissues).

And who is the guy who rocked this guitar for years and years on stage and named her Alberta after all? His name is Flamin’ Harry McGonigal. A little Google search helped me as a Westcoast guy and revealed that Harry must have been (or probably still is) a big shot in the Eastcoast blues rock circuit. Rock ‘n’ Roll rowdy George Thorogood even called him the „most underrated guitar player in North America“.

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Flamin' Harry in action.

Harry must’ve loved heavy rings on his left hand and blues scale in A minor, since the back of the neck shows impressive grooves from the 5th to the 8th fret. When Joe Bonamassa (probably on his pursuit to one day own the biggest collection of bursts) was checking out Alberta recently, first thing he said was: “I’d have these grooves filled up immediately!” And Joe wasn’t the only guy who left some star-DNA on this guitar. Players like Rev. Billy G., Santana, John Mayer (who?), and others already played this particular Les Paul. No need to say that I was somewhat starstruck when Jay handed over Alberta and left me (and Wolfe Macleod – founder and mastermind of Wolfetone pickups) alone in the room.

Just a short note on my R8: It’s a particularly nice model (the best Historic I’ve ever put hands on) with several upgrades (correct 57s wiring, Cornell Dubilier Grey Tiger caps, Wolfetone Marshallhead MkII (bridge) and Dr. Vintage (neck) humbuckers, etc.).

Now to the evaluation: First (as I always do when I test a guitar) I check the unplugged sound of Alberta, and instantly felt sort of disappointed - probably because of the huge expectations that are ultimately coupled to the mystic sound of the holy grail of electric guitars. The sound was very airy, thin, almost fragile, there was not much bass present, and sustain was not on the huge side. On the other hand, playing-wise, this guitar played like butter! Grooves in the neck? Heck, yeah! I felt them, but they really didn’t influence my playing at all. The neck shape was very interesting, too, since it was quite different compared to some necks on current R0 models that I played recently. Alberta’s neck almost has a soft v-shape, which felt fantastic. Gibson should scan this neck and use the dimensions sometime!

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However, we were not particularly impressed by the unplugged sound and decided to plug that baby in (hey, it’s an electric guitar - it is meant to be played plugged into a nice amp!) … and good lord! Suddenly, the room was filled with the most beautiful, transparent, dynamic, and sweet sound one could imagine. These PAFs really injected some unexplainable magic into Alberta and literally woke the old lady up! Although the pickups show relatively high readings (8.6 for the neck and 8.7 for the bridge) the sound was clear and strong, but didn’t push the Fender preamp into overdrive. The tone was more focused on a broad range of mids rather than on bass, the highs were abundant, but not piercing – the sound of a good old Telecaster bridge pickup instantly came to my mind (think Zep). Suddenly, all these explanations of THE PAF sound that I knew from the literature made sense. “Aha, you really have to hear it to understand the hype.” I’m afraid that’s how it is …

Then I plugged in my R8 (which sounded fuller, sustainedlonger , and had a much broader frequency range acoustically compared to the 60s) into the Fender, stroke the first chord … followed by a minute of complete speachlessness. Wolfe and I looked at each other, none of us believing how incredibly close those two guitars sounded. Of course, the acoustic features of the R8 were transformed beautifully into the electric sound, which means that the R8 (named Naomi, by the way) sounded fuller, sustained longer. But the transparency and dynamics were also there. Probably not as magical as with the real PAFs, but still … very, very close. Jay calls these extremely fine differences in clarity and touch response the “expensive 5%”. We all know that from a certain (price-)point on, the quality of the sound does not increase linear with the money you have to pay to get there. And this is exactly, what the “expensive 5%” mean. Monster players like Joe Bonamassa care about these 5%. They want to hear this tiny little extra that you cannot get from other (very good, though) guitars.

To name it – the 5% difference between these two guitars costs 170k dollars! Those are EXPENSIVE 5%. Does the ambitious, but not really dedicated guitar player need to pay this premium? Obviously not! But for some players, these percents are the ones that count. So is it worth it? To some? Hell, sure it is. If I had the resources, I’d happily throw bundles of dollar bills at Jay until he gives up. Since I'm not in a position to do that, I was rather happy that this test also showed that a current Historic model can reproduce the sound of the glorious Les Pauls as close as it gets.

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I hope that Alberta finds her way into the hands of a player who rocks the heck outta her! That’s what she knows, that’s what she does best. Don’t let her sit in a stand for the rest of her life!

That was pretty much it … even though it’s not a 1:1 translation, I think it captures well what (Wolfe and) I felt on that day.


Here's the link to the German version of the article: http://www.musiker-board.de/gibson-e-git/483904-gibson-les-paul-1960-holy-grail-oder-holy-crap.html
 
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DrRobert

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Jun 12, 2003
Messages
6,047
Do you have an english translation? Google translate obviously has a few problems (the guitar was described as having been gagged rather than gigged for example)? If I read it right, both were great guitars, the PAFs had a bit more clarity and you'd say that there was a slightly better sound from the real burst but only 5%?
 

TM1

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Jun 27, 2003
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8,215
How do you do the Google translate?
Thanks!
 

John Smolakis

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Oct 14, 2011
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336
How do you do the Google translate?
Thanks!

Some browsers will do it automatically for you, like Google Chrome.

Here's a portion of the translated text (too long to post the whole thing):

What is more interesting than a comparison of several generations of Gibson Les Paul Historic Collection of the legendary? Right, a direct 1:1 comparison chosen a good and a Historic Collection of ultra-rare originals. Why? Simply because at 1500 Sunburst Les Paul models made ​​(or affectionately by collectors "bursts") from 1958 to 1960 can probably get very few fans and lovers of the guitar in such a treat. After all, who has been a friend, who are sometimes just one, two bursts in the living room and even then can be any (or indeed anyone) to play without restraint? Right. Hardly anybody. And 150k to 250k times just € is on the high edge, too, not everyone. And even if, most of us would spend this fortune for a simple guitar - at the guaranteed not even know is that it really is the best, coolest, creamiest, etc. guitar at all (since 1500 are also among the have certainly found cucumbers). So you have to say for the average Joe consumer-only option to hope for a miracle or a gift but euphoric reports of a few belief (ever 2 days with Tom Wittrock dauergechattet?). So here comes one of these reports. Written in one of those moments where I think it makes life really kind to me - I'm sitting on the porch of my house in Seattle and the sun is shining (which alone is worth a Asbach). Before me a glass of sparkling with ice-cold ginger ale, the radio sounds Mike Bloomfield and before me are photos and notes of the event from which it is now reported. After my musician-board products Upgrading a Les Paul was sent to me by several pages to write, yet another article on Les Paul. The first idea was mentioned above: A comparison of several generations Gibson Historic Collection. Apparently, it seems most likely take one or other matter of faith in the wide world of forums to give. I must admit frankly that for me the issue is not necessarily exciting - because a good Les Paul is a good Les Paul, no matter what kind of a color, the Knobs, or whether the neck bell now really and permanently as the looks of 1959. The situation is different in construction. And there has not since about 2000 now at the Historic Collection Les Paul changed very much. It has now become a sport, just about anything to improve on the Les Paul (pickups, pots, caps, ...), so applying a comparison of various Historics even make sense only if I made ​​the test for several unmodified Paula had the different series at my disposal. And was not so. Long story short: New topic because I noticed my friend Jay from http://www.emeraldcityguitars.com/home/ in Seattle. Even before 2.5 years, when I was a new-time Seattle for the first time am in Jays Shop (and thus also the first pure vintage guitar shop in my life at all) bounced, I knew I someday his two originals (one 1959, one owner in almost mint condition and extremely rocking clubs, wanted to keep playing with traces of early burst in 1960) in written form. Is it for a Les Paul enthusiasts like myself a little better, as more or less to live next two bursts? On top of that I just had a few months ago probably best bought to date Historic Les Paul that I had ever been in my fingers - and those were some! For her - her name is Naomi - I could not resist and have maxed out the credit card but my bad. There is a slight 1958 reissue of 2002 with a fantastic Flametop and, interestingly, a Rio-fretboard, although it apparently is no R8 in 2002 with Rio board. My contact at Gibson rambled a bit of custom orders, blah, blah. A direct comparison with Indian rosewood fingerboard my old R7 and the Rio board Kortmann my Les Paul in any case confirmed this info. As befits someone who is, writes articles and columns on the upgrading of Les Pauls, the R8 has also been optimized a bit by making a new saddle and wolfetone pickups (a Marshall MkII Head to the bridge and a Dr. Vintage in the neck) get with historically correct wiring and '57 Cornell duplicating PIO caps and a set TonePros Kluson tuners have donated. This guitar has something that inspires them, takes a quite one and only spits back out if you can not anymore. The was the perfect player for my plan - a comparison of original optimized to re-issue. Non-optical (which for many Paulaner so is almost as important), but only as far as the sound, the feel. Naomi, a 2002 R8 Flametop and Rio rosewood fingerboard. And so the curtain on the 1960 Emerald City Guitars! And so a guitar that already has a lot under his belt. This guitar was not even played 50 years ago and then forgotten under the bed. No, this guitar was played, gagged, mauled ... which really is a sign of the excellent quality of an instrument usually. I think I need scarcely mention that the fact alone that before I even players like Joe Bonamassa, Rev. Billy G., John Mayer, Santana and others have played in exactly the Les Paul, my pulse has felt let rise. On the history of Paula: She was for many years owned by an East Coast musician with the sonorous name Flamin 'Harry Mc Gonigal. A little Google search is worthwhile here to learn more about this - according to George Thorogood "most underrated guitar player in North America" ​​- to find out types. How SRV has also Flamin 'Harry has a strong preference for rings on his left hand. Have been a further taste of Harry must blues in A, because in the 5th Position is the neck - apparently from the rings on your hand - literally reamed. These are no dents, the pits are right! Joe Bonamassa So also was the first response to "Alberta" (so-called Harry the Paula), so that he would be probably the first time these pits fill up again - just Joe! Otherwise, Alberta was briefly mounted a Bigsby, but now is back to the original tailpiece gone. . The bridge is at the point where the palm rests properly to almost half its original thickness ground off the many uses gradually Famin Harry with Alberta in action are some parts of the guitar is not original: The pickguard is from a later standard, at least one potentiometer knob is not original (although I tend to believe that all four are no longer original, Harry had buttons installed in the form of dice), two of the pots have been replaced over the years and the head potter Grover tuners. The bridge humbucker had been replaced once, now again an original PAF potters in the 4.1-pound Alberta. Speaking of PAF: both pickups provided to my (digital - I know, sacrilege!) Multimeter for a rash to 8.6 neck and 8.7 ohms in the bridge and so they are certainly amongst the fair models of that time. Jay was so kind and allow myself to take one day with measuring equipment, tape recorder and my R8 half of the shop fitting to Alberta, and my favorite Paula detail compare to an original Blackface Fender Vibrolux Reverb amp with one another. So, since we are talking about the limitations, with which one has to struggle to make a 1:1 comparison to the legs - Alberta had 10 D'Addario strings pulled, my Naomi was set at Pyramid Pure Nickel strings 11er - a difference not to be underestimated. The pickup distances I've tried on my R8 to match with the distances in the 60s as accurately as possible. I still have to Versärkung Wolfe MacLeod, the founder and mastermind of wolfetone pickups invited. Four ears are better than two. Well, then close in on the 175k U.S. dollars roast ... Alberta in all its beauty ... What struck immediately was that Alberta immediately and without any transition period (which I usually need many guitars to get used to it) like a glove fit has. Pits on the back? Sure, we know very little! That was very surprising. The neck profile was significantly different from R0 Gibson. It was more of a soft-V profile that fits comfortably in your hand. The action was set perfectly and the fact that the guitar has been (probably multiple) refretted was very conducive for playability. The guitar is perfectly balanced, neither head nor body-heavy. Short and sweet: I had the feeling that my guitar playing (!). Impressive! Here, briefly, about optics: from the excessive Lackplatzern who like to be found on new geaged th Paula, hardly anything was visible. The paint was a little blunter than Naomi, here and there some checking, but a splinter It also reflects orgy was not here (in the rest of the '59 Jays even when not). But what we noticed was a rather weak acoustic tone and sustain only mediocre. The R8 sounded much fuller, rounder and has much more sustain and volume. Rein played acoustically is what everyone would choose in a blind test for Naomi. That was a bit frustrating. So get to the amp ... and here the focus was mainly the clean tones. Marshall full-stack was Bratzeln - due to the setup in the store with customer traffic - not possible. ...
 

ChevChelios

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Joined
Jan 22, 2012
Messages
774
:lol

Oh my god, this translation is hilarious!!! I'll see if I can put together a proper English version sometime today.
 

ChevChelios

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Jan 22, 2012
Messages
774
I copy/pasted the complete translation into the first post ...
 
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Y

yeti

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Great article, ( I read the german version despite the fact that your translation is very good) the phrase "expensive 5%" (or is it .5%) really applies to these comparisons from my experience. BTW, the best Bursts I've played sounded great acoustically. :salude
 

Cody

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Jul 23, 2002
Messages
4,484
Gorgeous! :wow

That deck is FLAT! Thanks for the article and pics, guys!

:salude
 

ChevChelios

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Joined
Jan 22, 2012
Messages
774

Even though this is rather some sweet-spot-feedback then sheer sustain, it provides a good idea of the clear and powerful, yet airy sound of this guitar.

The original German article http://www.musiker-board.de/gibson-e-git/483904-gibson-les-paul-1960-holy-grail-oder-holy-crap.html also contains a short audio snippet with 4 parts - both guitars at volume 3 and both guitars at volume 5 (didn't want to crank it since there was quite some traffic that day). In the German forum, only one member was able to correctly assign the guitars to the parts :peace2

Here in the LP forum, I'm talking to pros, who could easily identify the real burst. That's also the reason for not posting the sound sample here ... that would be totally embarrassing for me. :rolleyes:
 
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AXE752

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Mar 11, 2002
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Even though this is rather some sweet-spot-feedback then sheer sustain, it provides a good idea of the clear and powerful, yet airy sound of this guitar.



Bingo. Jay asked me to demo the "sweet spot" for as long as it would hold the note. So I began with some of my "fumbling" and ended on the sweet spot. (Go ahead throw darts at the playing!!!:ha I don't mind--I was just thrilled to have the opportunity to play it.:jim ) It is a very lively sounding guitar plugged in and I consider myself very blessed that I had the chance to see it/lay hands on it. Very pretty guitar, and Jay and his family are first class folks. :2cool
 
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