Epiphone Noel Gallagher Riviera: What is it?
With Noel Gallagher’s partnership with Gibson and Epiphone bearing fruit, presenting us with a variety of signature guitars, electric and acoustic – this has been a very good year for the fans of the High Flying Birds frontman and former Oasis guitarist.
Those looking to pick from the top shelf could opt for a perfectly cloned replica of Gallagher’s 1960 ES-355, fresh from the Custom Shop’s Murphy Lab. At just a cent under 10 grand, that comes with a sobering price tag. There was another collector’s piece, a Custom Shop J-150, just like the jumbo you’ve seen him play in Little By Little, and it is a guitar with songs in it, no doubt.
But if your budget is a little more draft lager than champagne supernova, Gallagher’s Epiphone Riviera will be right on the money.
Besides each guitar’s association with Gallagher, with each making notable appearances across his career – the Riviera we have here starred in the Don’t Look Back In Anger video – all share the distinction of not overdoing the signature theme. If you were to pick Gallagher’s ES-355 off the rack, it could pass for just another one of Tom Murphy’s age-defying creations; a dream machine semi-hollow to audition through the best amp you can find. Similarly, this Riviera doesn’t scream Oasis, but, if you know, you know…
The Dark Wine Red finish is a touch of class, a deep shade of ox-blood, so too the white pickguard and matching truss rod plate with the Epiphone logo, the headstock shape, the black witch’s hat knobs with silver inserts. A cursory glance might tell you this is an off-the-shelf model.
Look again, however, and the specs specific to Gallagher become apparent. The humbuckers – a pair of Alnico Classic PROs – are regular-sized, not the mini-buckers you’d find on a stock Riviera. And the tailpiece has been changed, too, with an Epiphone LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and stop bar replacing what would have been the Frequensator tailpiece.
The Frequensator is a refined piece of hardware, which compensated for the bass strings, making them longer to accentuate their fundamentals, and vice versa for the treble strings. But for a certain type of player, there’s something just so sturdy about a Tune-O-Matic that, well, on a guitar like this, with so much DNA shared with the Gibson ES-335, it makes it feel a little like a hybrid – or, if you like, an artist custom model.
Gallagher’s signature is on the back of the headstock. It’s only right. But it’s so subtle that even Blur fans who took the popular music press of the ‘90s seriously could pick this up and enjoy it.
Build-wise, Gallagher’s Riviera has a bound five-ply maple body with a maple centre block to combat feedback. It has a SlimTaper maple neck with a volute, and as per 21st-century Epiphone, there is an Indian laurel fingerboard, with a 12” radius, 22 medium jumbo frets pearloid trapezoid inlays, and binding to match the body. The unbound headstock is in the open-book style and is fitted with a set of premium die-cast tuners with oval metal buttons.
The quality of Epiphone’s builds these days is not to be sniffed at. Under the hood, in that two-volume, two-tone configuration that controls the pickups, we have CTS pots, .02 uF capacitors. To top it all off, it comes in a hardshell guitar case.
Epiphone Noel Gallagher Riviera: Performance and verdict
Epiphone might be Gibson’s more affordable sibling brand but there’s no sense that this, or say its BB King Lucille and guitars such as the Joe Bonamassa ‘Lazarus’ 1959 Les Paul Standard, are entry-level runarounds. The Riviera is a guitar you’d gig with. It’s priced and built like a first serious guitar. And it proves itself a superlative semi-hollow with a certain bespoke vibe.
There are a few surprises here. The SlimTaper neck is not going to be able to hide behind an Ibanez Wizard any time soon but neither does it scream Louisville Slugger. We associate Gallagher with chord work and rhythm guitar, pushing the song along, but this – especially with those full-fat humbuckers – could pander to your inner Jimmy Page, too.
• Epiphone BB King Lucille
Epiphone’s take on the most-famous blues guitar in history puts that class and an old-school suite of tones within reach of a wider demographic, and if they’ve still got the blues this is the instrument to chase them away.
• Epiphone Joe Bonamassa 'Lazarus' 1959 Les Paul Standard
A worthy production line replica of a storied ’59 Les Paul Standard, Lazarus is exactly what you would expect from Epiphone and a vintage guitar connoisseur; it’s all vibe and then some.
It sure makes easy work of chords, and the Riviera is bright and resonant. Think Gallagher’s tone and it’s all slightly lairy top end, plenty of guts in the upper mids to give those open chord voicings some poke, and you get that here. Set your amp right and you’ll have no problems getting this through the mix. There’s nothing dark or woolly about those bridge and middle positions.
On the neck pickup, however, things mellow out a bit in the top end, and the Riviera warms up. This archetypal rhythm tone speaks blues and old rock ’n’ roll and puts some heft on your chords. Depending on how you’ve stocked your pedalboard, that neck pickup can offer a wide range of alt-rock and indie sounds that are truly compelling.
Those with a bare-bones rig, guitar straight into combo amp, and blues guitar players, for instance, should enjoy the abundant range between this beefier, blues-friendly neck humbucker sound and the more pugnacious bite of the bridge pickup.
All this goes to say that this is more than just an Oasis guitar. It’s not an ES-335 finished in a Union flag. It’s not just for the trebly clang of Roll With It. It contains multitudes.
MusicRadar verdict: As with a number of models in the Epiphone’s current signature range, the Noel Gallagher Riviera presents an affordable but bespoke twist on a classic design, with a persuasive sound that places the field to attract all comers, and it looks damn cool, too. Which is to say that it has all the potential to become one of the artist range’s superstars.
Epiphone Noel Gallagher Riviera: The web says
"Ultimately, this guitar fulfils its purpose, and is more evidence that a semi‑acoustic isn’t simply for vintage rock ’n’ roll or blues – although it obviously excels at this, too. Open it up a bit and you’ll get meaty rock rhythm and lead tones, but more than anything, this guitar inspired us to want to play it."
Epiphone Noel Gallagher Riviera: Hands-on demos
The Trogly's Guitar Show
Epiphone Noel Gallagher Riviera: Specifications
- BODY: Maple, laminate with centre block
- NECK: Maple
- FINGERBOARD: Indian laurel
- FRETS: 22
- PICKUPS: Epiphone Alnico Classic PRO
- CONTROLS: 2x volume, 2x tone, 3-way switch
- HARDWARE: Nickel
- LEFT-HANDED: No
- FINISH: Dark Wine Red
- CASE: Yes
- CONTACT: Epiphone