I know this is an old chestnut, but I personally think it's true. When the Les Paul solid guitar first made an appearance in the mid 50's it was a revolutionary instrument but one that had the magic formula that goes to make an outstandingly powerful and musical sounding electric instrument. When the Japanese musical instrument industry got back on it's feet after the 2nd world war they very quickly realised that the way forward was to manufacture electric guitars to satisfy the interest of a young population that had been influenced by the conquering American nation. Fuelled by a very strong work ethic they set about making some well made but slightly strange looking, to the western eye,electric guitars. Gibson on the other hand went through several ownership upheavals and during the 70's produced some very mediocre, by their standards electric guitars, so as the Japanese guitar industry was on the up Gibson was experiencing difficult times so the worldwide guitar buying population was forced to look elsewhere for affordable but well made instruments. Now I know that the Americans got very upset about the fact that Japan, in the shape of the Fuji Gen Gakki factory,were producing extremeley well made exact replicas of the Gibson Les Paul as well as many other classic American designs, but I would like to think that the Japanese looked on this situation as a tribute to their beloved American iconic guitars as, by this time, they were beginning to embrace the American culture and at a time when the American guitar industry was automating most of their guitar-making processes, using not very good quality timbers,they started to produce some very good examples of guitars,notably Les Pauls, using better quality timbers than the current American products. So the situation is that there some beautifully made Japanese Les Paul guitars out there but having said that, every example of these guitars has to be taken on it's own merit. As with everything these days, there are an awful lot of fake guitars coming from the far east that the unwary buyer may mistake for a good Japanese example. The other aspect of this situation is that every guitar manufacturer worldwide uses virtually the same computer-controlled machinery to mass-produce their product to exact tolerances so the only factor that separates the good from the bad is the quality of the timber used.So to get back to the original premise of this review, the fact is that, if you know a good guitar by how it plays and how it is put together you will not be disappointed if you examine a few 1979-1999 examples of makes such as Greco, Burny and early Tokai. All these makes are still available but the current examples are much the same quality as the current stock of Gibson Les Pauls but at least a third of the cost of, say, a Gibson Standard Les Paul.The earlier Japanese examples of the makes I quoted are, in my opinion, the equal of current American Les Pauls if not, in some cases, better and Ebay is the perfect site to look for the dream of every guitar player, a Les Paul for a price that most of us can afford and that you can treasure.
NOT ALL GOOD LES PAUL GUITARS ARE MADE BY GIBSON
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14 September 2006
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