Return of the Holy Grail?
Between 1958 and 1960 Gibson made about 1700 sunburst Les Paul Standards. These are the most sought-after electrics in guitardom. Time after time Gibson has attempted to re-create the magic of the original "burst" series of those hallowed 3 years, beginning in 1982 with the Guitar Trader LP Standard re-issues and the various historic releases throughout the years. I believe Gibson has hit a nice high note with the release of the 2013 LP Standard.
One of the reasons I buy guitars from Sweetwater is that you can view very highly detailed photos of your instrument before deciding on your purchase. This is especially important when you are laying down some serious bread to buy your Les Paul. (The '58-'60 Standards cost $280!) When the guitar arrived I opened the case and was happy to find the aesthetics of the guitar exceeded my expectations. A glorious sunburst finish on book-matched fiddleback maple that harkens back to the Standards of old. The vanilla tones of the nitrocellulose lacquer finish hung heavy in the air. Well...don't just look at the guitar...play it!
The 2013 Standard takes all the best aspects of the various Standard releases throughout the years and combines them in a guitar which is going to be tough for Gibson to top in the future. The body, although lightened with resonant chambers, still weighs in at a nice sturdy 8.5 lbs. The neck is 60's tapered-slim and as playable as any Les Paul I have ever handled. The action is low and sweet, with nary a buzz or dead spot on the neck from low E to high C. The compound-radius fretboard allows for easy chording at the low end of the neck and fluid leads and sweet bends at the high end. The two burst-bucker pickups (humbuckers with an Alnico 5 magnets instead of Alnico II, providing a slightly "hotter" output) create an amazing array of tones, especially when paired with the coil tapping and phase shifting that are part of the guitars volume and tone controls. You achieve the classic fat, sustained tones from the neck pickup, or pull its volume pot for a single-coil (dare I say Fender strat...ish?) tone. The same can be accomplished with the bridge pickup, screaming hot leads that can be toned-down a bit by tapping it as well. This guitar can be put into a subtle "Greenie" mode by putting the pickup selector switch in the middle and pulling up on the neck pickup's tone pot, putting the two pickups into an out-of-phase state, resulting in the tone Peter Green achieved with his '59 Standard. If you pull up the bridge pickup's tone control it bypasses all the knob settings and sends the bridge burstbucker straight to the output jack, a cool feature for instant-on lead riffing.
To sum up, this guitar is a beauty to behold, a pleasure to play and has the features of Page's famous '59 (slim neck, coil-tapping) with a few extras that every guitar player can utilize. If you've done your homework, studied the Les Paul variances over the years and have been waiting to buy a Standard, the 2013 will not disappoint.