How the Les Paul Tribute Pays Tribute
By Anderton |
How the Les Paul Tribute Pays Tribute
Few, if any, of us will ever own a '59 Les Paul—but this guitar's goal is to pay tribute to the essential features
by Craig Anderton
(Editor’s note: Harmony Central’s offices are located about 300 feet away from the Gibson USA factory, so when the 2017 guitars were introduced, we just had to check them out. But luckily, we were able to hold on to them and in the process, found out there are considerable differences among them. So, rather than “review” them in the traditional sense, we thought it would be helpful to analyze what the differences are so the HC community would have an idea of what was going on “under the hood” with these guitars. This fourth article in the series covers the details of the Les Paul Tribute.)
“Tribute” is actually a pretty good clue as to what this guitar is all about. If you look at it from a distance, you could easily think it might be a lost Les Paul guitar from the 1950s. Taking a cue from the previous article in this series on the Les Paul Faded, I mentioned that its stripped-down approach was more “Clash, not Clapton”—well, this one is more Clapton, not Clash.
But look closer, and while the Tribute does look like the kind of Les Paul you picture in your mind (and know you could never afford!), there are some differences. It’s a simpler model, with no binding; and the finish is satin, as opposed to a more VOS-oriented or full gloss finish. Also, the complement of tonewoods is what you’d expect for a Les Paul: mahogany body, plain maple top, and a mahogany neck.
9-hole weight relief. Although the Tribute goes to the effort of creating a vintage look with classic tones, underneath the top there’s 9-hole weight relief. This was the first type of weight relief Gibson offered, and combines traditional tone with more of the “feel” and heft of a 50s-style guitar compared to models with Ultra-Modern weight relief.
The neck. Another point of difference from the Traditional is a SlimTaper neck profile, so this is more suited to high-on-the-neck leads than the Traditional’s rounded neck. The satin finish underscores this, as the feel on the back of the neck is very smooth. However the inlays are the traditional trapezoid shape, in keeping with the visual emphasis of the Tribute, and the fingerboard is the usual rosewood.
Vintage-style “Keystone” tuners. Again, this conforms to the look of the guitars to which the Tribute pays tribute. However while the look is the same, they’re manufactured to modern standards.
The electronics. The Tribute sports the standard two volume/two tone controls configuration, attached to a circuit board in the control pocket cavity. There are no push-pull knobs or other tweaks; the electronics are what you expect…nothing more, nothing less. Furthermore, the pickup selector switch is the traditional, leaf-style Switchcraft type.
Knobs. Gibson has sure used a lot of different knob designs over the years; these have the shape of the top hat knobs, and include the pointer, but have silver inserts with “tone” and “volume” printer on the them—the only 2017 model (aside from the SG Special) to feature this particular knob type. Again, these are part of maintaining the vintage vibe.
Plating and plastics. The pickguard and pickup rings have the cream-colored motif of the 50s Les Pauls, and the Tune-o-matic bridge and stop bar are standard—nickel-plated, made of aluminum, and steel posts.
Pickups. We have the old standbys: a 490R for the neck, and a 490T for the bridge. However unlike the pickups on the Les Paul Faded, the coils are not exposed; the nickel-plated covers result in a slightly more mellow sound than the Faded.
Overall, the Faded and the Tribute strike me as a complementary pair of guitars. While they both provide significant value, the Faded has a more modern look while the Tribute is all about the guitars of the 1950s to which it aspires. It seems the Tribute is very much aimed at guitar players who’ve always wanted a ’59 Les Paul, know that will never happen, but want something with that look—along with improvements that acknowledge we’re in a different century than when the first Les Pauls walked the earth. - HC -
Visit the rest of the series on the 2017 Gibson Guitars:
For more information on the Gibson Les Paul Tribute please visit Gibson.com
Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.