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Guitarist's 2008 review
If you look around at the Fenders and Gibsons most people are playing, most of the time, the sixpence soon drops that the guitar world has a healthy obsession with the past.
So given that 1958 was an unbelievable year for our beloved instrument '08 was always likely to be big on anniversaries. Clocking up half centuries were the sunburst Gibson Les Paul Standard, the Flying V, Explorer and ES-335; also the Fender Jazzmaster and, even though it had been introduced the previous year, '58 was the year the humbucking pickup tightened its grip around rock'n'roll's cojones.
It was a great excuse for Guitarist to run plenty of lavish features, moreover, to get our hands on some dizzying guitars from that fabled year.
We have a feeling that more players are once again looking for something different
While Gibson in particular rolled out the reissues in celebration – and very good they were too, particularly the 2008 '58 ES-335 – there were plenty of forward moving signs and, for us at least, a gentle feeling that more players are once again looking for something different.
Sure, everyone will always love classis Strats, Teles and Les Pauls, but with solidbody entries from the likes of Taylor, Breedlove and Larrivée, a true modern great in Vox's Virage DC, and the continuing development of hybrids such as Epiphone's Les Paul Ultra II, new sounds and inspiration awaits.
The world of artists
On the artist front, it's been about updated blues and the resurgence of classic rock in the main. Seeing and meeting John Mayer at Hyde Park with in June was a rare treat – he floored everyone with the Live In Los Angeles release – mixing blues and all round rock and pop like nobody before him.
Joe Bonamassa, too, has become a confirmed Guitarist cover star, mixing elements of our favourite players and finding his own voice with them. Paul Gilbert, Larry Carlton, Gary Moore, Robben Ford and too many more to list – such a privilege to meet these guys and learn something.
But the thing that makes me smile the most is Seasick Steve. Whatever anyone says about him, he's an absolute diamond who released a great record. We stuck him on the cover in celebration. "All the blues police say, He ain't very good," he told us, "and I say, No shit! I ain't got no thing about being a great player, but the guitar is my friend and because it's my friend it talks to people." Couldn't have said it better myself, Steve.
Happy new year one and all!
Guitarist's top 5 guitars of 2008
1. Gibson 2008 '58 ES-335
Guitarist says: Released to celebrate 50 years of the world's favourite thinline, this exemplifies everything good about 335s. Gibson's finest? We think so.
2. Squier Classic Vibe '60s Stratocaster
Guitarist says: Ridiculous value vintage-style Strat, featuring Alnico V pickups, decent hardware and all the right looks.
3. PRS Starla
Guitarist says: A bit Gretsch-y, a bit SG-esque, but mostly PRS's most retro design ever. Toneful, vibrant and, gadzooks, cool!
4. Epiphone Slash Signature Les Paul Standard Plus Top
Guitarist says: A long tenon-neck joint, locking hardware and Seymour Duncan pickups make this much more than an exercise in hero worship.
5. Vox Virage DC
Guitarist says: Takes the ES-335 idea to the next level. Beatifully light and resonant, mega versatile pickups and fab looks. What a belter.
Guitarist's top 5 albums of 2008
1. John Mayer – Where The Light Is – Live In Los Angeles
This proves that Mayer is the complete package as a singer, songwriter and guitarist
2. Paul Gilbert – Slience Followed By A Deafening Roar
Gilbert takes the hackneyed genre of guitar instruments and gives it a collossal kick in the conkers. Uttery astounding
3. Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night
Sounding retro and utterly contemproary is no mean feat. KOL pull it off with aplomb and get played on the radio too!
4. The Black Keys – Attack & Release
Mesmerising tones and feel from the two-piece garage blues-rockers. Creative and credible without doubt
5. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Classic rock mayem with punky undertones from America's best bar-room band. The sound of them truly hitting their stride