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Gibson Memphis 2017 ES-LPC Black Beauty Electic Guitar

Because sometimes...you just gotta play the Blues...and beyond!

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

The Gibson Memphis ES-LPC Black Beauty is a thinline semi-hollowbody Les Paul Custom limited-release for 2017 that features three Memphis Historic Spec humbucking pickups, along with a Bigsby B-6 vibrato bridge. A part of the VOS (Vintage Original Spec) family, the ES-LPC Black Beauty’s hardware and finish are given an aging treatment to make them appear to be an extremely well-maintained instrument that is several decades old right out of the (included) case. This means the metal has a subtle patina of age and soft wearing in areas where hands would often make contact, from the bridge to the pickup cover to even the gold milk bottle Grover rotomatic tuners and black top hat knobs. My first impression was that it looks like a guitar that had been carefully played for a few years, cleaned up, and then forgotten in a closet long ago.

 

The ES-LPC Black Beauty’s body is made of a solid maple top, back, and sides and is bound with seven-ply triple binding on the front and three-ply binding on the back. As a one-off limited model, the Gibson Memphis ES-LPC Black Beauty is available exclusively in an Antique Ebony nitrocellulose finish, which perfectly captures the look and depth of a decades-aged ebony paint job. The black is somewhat muted and has a richer, lived-in depth that glows more than shines. The hardware is a gold-plated buffed nickel that's gently rubbed with a dead-on gently oxidized look.

 

The mahogany neck features a Richlite fingerboard with 22 frets, a 24 ¾” scale length, and full block mother of pearl inlay and a true bone nut.

 

The Black Beauty’s three humbucking pickups, which are Memphis Historic Spec and wound slightly differently than modern Gibson pickups to best fit the tone of the semi-hollow body, sound fantastic and compare favorably to the handful of well-regarded vintage-voiced humbuckers I had around to which I could compare them. The clean tones are clear and well-balanced with a noticeable sweetness in the lower mids, but the pickups really shine with the volume knob dimed into an amp that has a bit of breakup. There’s a rich bark in the bridge position that rides the line between jazz and classic rock tones, and the neck pulls warmer, darker tones. The middle pickup is an excellent balance between the two, but I found myself choosing to commit to one extreme or the other.

 

The Bigsby B-6 is about the perfect fit for the ES-LPC body, stays in tune, and has the right feel and tone for a vintage-era guitar. While you’d be hard-pressed to do multi-octave dive bombs, the girth and fluidity of the hardware is a satisfying, controlled vibrato that someone like Neil Young or Jimmy Page could appreciate.

 

  

                          Brad Whitford peforming on his 2017 Gibson Memphis ES-LPC Black Beauty

 

Limitations

 

The Gibson Memphis ES-LPC Black Beauty is such a specific guitar; it’s hard to say objectively there are any limitations to it for the crowd its feature set attracts. It’s a high-end, limited-run guitar built to vintage specs.

 

Conclusion

 

The Gibson Memphis ES-LPC Black Beauty is a near-perfect substitute for a vintage model. In truth, the closest thing to a visual cue that it isn’t a vintage guitar is the slightly-brighter-than-one-would-expect-but-still-aged-looking white in the pickguard center ply. The guitar plays beautifully, sounds exactly like one would expect who knows the specs, and has a solid build all the way through.

 

Often time part of a reviewer's job is to help position gear to help players decide whether or not what’s being reviewed is something that fits what they seek, but a guitar like the ES-LPC Black Beauty has a ready-built audience that really only needs one question answered… does it live up to the high standards of a vintage guitar? Hell yes, it does!  -HC-

 

 Join the discussion!

 

____________________________________________ 

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

 

 

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