GIBSON LES PAUL JR. LITE WITH P-100 PICKUPS
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Gibson originally introduced the Les Paul Junior in 1954, as an entry level or student guitar. It was priced at $49.50 at that time. The original Les Paul Junior had a single cutaway and one dog ear P-90 pickup mounted on the body. In 1958, Gibson changed the shape of the Les Paul Junior to a double cutaway design, which foreshadowed the eventual introduction of the Les Paul SG Standard several years later. Unfortunately for Gibson, and surprising as it may seem to us today, the Les Paul line of guitars was never really a bit hit with the guitar buying public, and eventually the whole line Les Paul guitars was discontinued at the end of 1962, when Les Paul withdrew his endorsement and did not renew his contract with Gibson. Of course, we all know that that did not last very long. Once people like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page began singing the praises of the discontinued Les Paul line of guitars in the mid-1960s, a buying craze among musicians and collectors began to take place, and everything with the Les Paul name on it became highly sought after. Gibson realized that they had a hit on their hands, and they eventually resurrected the whole line of Les Paul guitars, and added many different variations and incarnations to the original designs of these legendary guitars. But enough of the history lesson, the guitar that I will be discussing today in this review is the Gibson Les Paul Jr. Lite with two P-100 Pickups.
Wait a minute, I hear some of you reading this review saying, I thought the Les Paul Junior came with one P-90 pickup, Well, you are all correct about the original Les Paul Junior, but we are not talking about the original Les Paul Junior, we are discussing the Les Paul Jr. Lite. Gibson has always been a company that has tried to appeal to the buying public with new and innovative designs, and they have come up with many creative ways to do that, such as with the introduction of the Humbucking pickup, the ES-335, or the SG Standard. One of these attempts to appeal to the public was to introduce the Les Paul Jr. Lite, which, other than the name Les Paul Junior, it has very little in common with the original Les Paul Junior, or the modern Custom Shop Reissue of the Les Paul Junior.
Although the Les Paul Jr. Lite may at first glance appear to be very similar to the modern Les Paul Faded Double Cut with two P-90 pickups, or to a 1960 Les Paul Special Custom Shop Reissue, they are actually very different guitars, with a very big difference in price among them. The Gibson Les Paul Jr. Lite is not a Custom Shop Reissue guitar, and therefore it is not a faithful reproduction of any of the Les Paul line of guitars ever made. Further, although it has many superficial appearances that are similar to the Les Paul Faded Double Cut with P-90s, the Les Paul Jr. Lite is again very different, and comes equipped with P-100 pickups, which are very different that P-90s. However, the Les Paul Jr. Lite is a great sounding guitar in its own right, and there are actually characteristics about this guitar that some players would actually prefer over an original Custom Shop Reissue of a Les Paul Junior, such as a Tune-O-Matic Bridge and a Stopbar Tailpiece, as compared to the Wraparound Bridge/Tailpiece found on the Custom Shop Les Paul Junior Reissue. The closest cousins to this guitar in the Les Paul family are the Les Paul Jr. Special with P-100s and/or the Les Paul Special with P-100s. However, both of these aforementioned guitars have single cutaways, while the Les Paul Jr. Lite has a double cutaway design. Still confused as to what the Les Paul Jr. Lite actually is? Well things will become clearer as you read on.
The body of the Les Paul Jr. Lite Special is made of a solid slab of flat Mahogany, unlike a higher end or more expensive Les Paul, such as a Les Paul Standard, which has a carved Maple top, and in this regard it has something in common with a modern Les Paul Faded Double Cut with P-90s or an original Les Paul Junior. The neck is also made of solid Mahogany, and it has 22-frets, and a Rosewood fingerboard. The inlays on the neck are very unusual, and are Mini Trapezoid Pearloid Inlays. There is no binding to be found anywhere on the guitar, and the overall appearance of this guitar is a very no nonsense, straightforward, simplistic design, with no frilly extras. The tuning pegs are simple Green Key Tuners, and I found that they did a very good job of holding this guitar in tune quite well. Unlike the original Les Paul Junior from the 1950s which had a Wraparound Bridge/Tailpiece, the current incarnation of the Les Paul Jr. Lite has a Tune-O-Matic Bridge and Stopbar Tailpiece. All of the hardware on the guitar is finished in a rust resistant Chrome. This guitar is available in Natural, Ebony, and Cinnamon. My preference is the Natural finish, perhaps in part because that is the color of the one that I was playing, but also because the grain of the natural Mahogany is quite beautiful and esthetically pleasing to the eye.
This guitar looks very similar to the current Les Paul Faded Double Cut with P-90s, and it has that very classic double cutaway design seen in the 1959 Les Paul Special. The Les Paul Jr. Lite guitar has two Volume and two Tone controls, one for each of its pickups, and a three way toggle switch or pickup selector. However, although the original 1955 model the Les Paul Junior came equipped with a single dog ear P-90 pickup, this incarnation of the Les Paul Jr. Lite comes equipped with two P-100 pickups. In order to understand how this guitar sounds, it is important to have some understanding of exactly what a P-100 pickup is, and what it is not. The P-100 is often mistakenly thought to be a hotter or more powerful version of the classic single coil P-90 pickup. This is far from the truth. The P-100 is not a single coil pickup at all, in fact it is a stacked humbucker designed to look like a standard P-90.
The P-100 pickup was designed to be the same size as a P-90, and to fit in the same cover as a P-90, but it is a humbucking pickup and not a single coil pickup like a P-90. The P-100 is often referred to as a Vintage Vertical pickup because it is capable of producing a very warm, vintage humbucking sound. Typically, humbucking pickups have two coils that are side by side. However, the P-100 is a stacked humbucker, and it has two reversed single coil pickups or wound bobbins of wire that are stacked one on top of the other, which serve to cancel out unwanted noise and hum. A stacked humbucker does not sound exactly the same as conventional side by side humbucker, nor does it sound the same as a single coil pickup. The P-100 has slightly less high frequency response than a P-90, but much more so than a conventional side-by-side humbucker, without the midrange accentuation associated with humbucking pickups. However, because of its humbucking design, it also has a fatter, warmer, and richer sound than could ever be gotten from a P-90, and it is also a hotter pickup as well.
This guitar is capable of producing a smooth, silky, singing sustain, just like you would expect from a Gibson equipped with humbucking pickups. However, the P-100s also seem to have a bit more high end and bite than most humbucking pickups produce, and the P-100s, in combination with the solid all Mahogany body, sound very close to a SG Standard with slightly overwound or hot versions of two 498T Alnico Humbuckers, especially when the P-100 in the bridge position is engaged. This is a very smoking guitar, and it is capable of a seriously vicious bite. As to the playability, this is a very fast playing guitar. The neck is a 1960s Slim Taper style, which is very sleek and fast, and the silky smooth finish on the neck begs you to play some lightning fast riffs. The fingerboard is a medium light Rosewood, and the guitar has 22 frets. The contour of the body, as well as the generous double cutaways, permits easy reach to even the highest of the frets, and the construction of the guitar is such that one can even play chords very high up on the neck and close to the body with ease and comfort. This guitar is not a very flashy looking guitar, and is very basic, and there are no extra frills on this guitar. However, the sound of this instrument is likely to make people sit up and take notice, and I suspect that people will be asking you how you are able to get those stingingly sweet sustains out of a guitar with single coil pickups (but of course you will know that they are actually stacked humbuckers and not single coils).
In short, if you give it a try, I think that you will really like this guitar. Of course this is not the greatest guitar that Gibson has ever made, but it is far from the worst either. I will admit that there are Gibsons that I like better, such as a Custom Shop Reissue, but then again a Custom Shop guitar costs a significantly greater amount of money, and after all you get what you pay for. But this is still one good mid-priced guitar. It is a fun guitar to play. It is light enough to play for an all night gig, and it is well balanced, and not to neck heavy. The Les Paul Jr. Lite with P-100 Pickups is a guitar that is solidly constructed, and very well made. Like most good Gibson guitars, it plays beautifully, has great tone, and has the classic sound of 1960s rock. It is versatile enough to get almost any sound you could ask for, such as a 60s rock or blues sound, a silky smooth jazz sound, and an early post Beatles invasion British sound. If you give this guitar a try, I think you will be pleased with the sound. It sounds great, and it is very versatile.
Another important point to keep in mind when considering whether to purchase this guitar is that not many Les Paul Jr. Lite guitars equipped with P-100 pickups were ever made, and thus, this model may potentially someday be a model that is sought after by collectors. A final point to keep in mind is that this is a Gibson, and as such, it will hold its value over time in the aftermarket should you ever decide to sell this guitar and get a different one.
With that being said, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to read my review, but now I must get back to my practicing.
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