There have been so many incarnations of the Les Paul that another risks clouding the waters completely.
But imagine the Classic as a grown-up Les Paul with a few nifty tweaks to make it look flashier than a Standard yet actually more affordable, and things start to look rather interesting. Gibson states that 'grade A' woods are used throughout, with the traditional carved maple cap on a 'weight relieved' mahogany body and a glued-in mahogany neck.
Where things differ from the norm is in the use of a fingerboard of baked maple, which Gibson states is "a heat-treated hardwood that offers a clear tone and extreme durability", and which lends an unusual new look to the guitar.
Other Custom appointments include multiple binding in white and black, and what looks like pearl block markers and the iconic 'split diamond' headstock inlay. And here's where things get interesting. Gibson has employed acrylic 'pearl' for all except the company logo itself.
But Les Paul Standards have always had celluloid position markers - even on original '59s that go for the price of a house. The Classic's look great too, so let's just get over it.
Some have said the baked maple is a bit anaemic for their liking. Well, the Custom's sister, the Classic Plus, does give the option of Gibson's faux ebony 'Richlite' material (more of which later). And let's not forget that conservation is becoming a more important topic in the guitar world all the time, and maple has the advantage of being an abundant species that also has an amazing guitar-building heritage.
Finish is high-gloss nitrocellulose that's flat and very shiny. There's no tinting to the mahogany so it has that rather ginger look about it, but its chambering should help prevent shoulder fatigue and may also add dynamics to the guitar's sound.
We can't fault the way it's put together either - everything is clean and supremely workmanlike, even though the join on the two-piece mahogany back looks rather obvious.
Customs have always been the bruisers in the LP range, with more powerful pickups and a 'rockier' image than the Standard. This one has Gibson's well regarded Alnico II-loaded 57 Classics, however, its most traditional PAF-like pickup before the Burstbuckers came out. Inside are a Switchcraft toggle and quality pots, albeit cheapo ceramic disc capacitors.
Dimensionally the LP is as normal, so we know what to expect regarding fretboard access and on-the-strap feel. At 9.03lbs it's not the lightest or the heaviest we've played, and its modern feeling slim-taper neck nestles perfectly in the palm.
The usual complement of 22 medium frets - given Gibson's Plek treatment for accuracy of intonation and set-up - feels good under the fingers and the baked maple has an ebony-like feel to it, certainly more so than rosewood. All in all it's a very positive playing experience.
All the Les Paul's sonic hallmarks are there: hefty punch from the bridge 57 Classic, with plenty of treble bite to push power chords and rocky riffs to the fore. Flip to the neck and big, warm tones abound but still with a notable top-end definition, especially at medium to low gain.
In the middle things scoop somewhat, for surprisingly funky tones. Pile on the drive and it gets big, holding on to extreme gain very well. This guitar is without doubt worthy of the name, but that maple 'board has its effect on the tone: more sizzle and definition than a vintage-style Les Paul.