Gibson Melody Maker Six-String Electric
Generically the Gibson Melody Maker single-cutaway is one of three 1950s flat-top Les Paul type reissues (the other two being the Junior single and double-cutaways) soon to be released by Rosetti, the UK distributor.
Compared to its illustrious 1959 forbear, the '86 Melody Maker differs in two significant respects - one very practical, the other tonal and hence more down to personal taste. First is the inclusion of the familiar, older-style Tune-O-Matic bridge (with saddle-screw retainer wire) and separate stop-bar tailpiece. The original had a combination bridge/tailpiece (albeit with staggered saddles) and if the intonation was suspect — which it could well become when using lighter gauge strings — you were well and truly bandersnatched! The other is the fitting of a PAF type Gibson humbucker. The original was a single-coil bar magnet design.
The essence of the Melody Maker, past and present, is simplicity. No question of indecision about which pick-up to use. You ain't got the choice! Is this restrictive? Well, yes and no. Yes, in as much as you obviously don't have the tonal variety of two pick-ups separately or combined. No, from the viewpoint that if you like the Melody Maker's essential sound this, in itself, will probably be one of the incentives to buy it.
The PAF humbucker is predictably ballsy — I had to ease back the input level on my delay pedal a few notches to prevent the peak light blinking in alarm. And give the mere 1⅜in deep (original spec.) mahogany body, the guitar sustains remarkably well. Tonally the Melody Maker is typically Gibson - sweet, warm and potentially dirty.
If it were mine I'd extend its clanging capabilities by having a coil-tap tone pot fitted. Unadulterated though, it is reasonable to say that the Melody Maker is most at home when it and companion amp are cranked up. It's a great rock and blues guitar.
The neck and flat-radius fingerboard (standard 1 11/18in width at the nut) are comfortable and allow fast playing with good up-top access. The action height on the sample — courtesy of a straight neck, well dressed fretting and low-cut nut — was commendably low. Intonation was fine and the mini-Grover tuning machines do their job as they should. It's worth mentioning that for an instrument with a fairly minimal mass of body material, the Melody Maker balances well on the strap.
The only criticism of the (pre-production) sample was cosmetic and reflected disproportionately on the otherwise high standard of construction. In places the fingerboard was marginally narrower than the neck. It didn't affect playing comfort, but could be seen and felt - a definite step between fingerboard and neck — it wasn't fingerboard shrinkage.
Staying with finish for a mo'. The lustrous, go-faster Ferrari Red lacquer is certainly eye catching and the alternative Ebony is well... probably black. Both fashionable right now. For my money, though, I'd suggest two alternatives. Given that both the body and neck are one-piece constructions it would be nice to see A) a natural neck finish (somehow just that bit classier on this type of guitar than matching colour lacquer) and/or B) an overall natural finish. If you've got it, why not flaunt it?
For all its inherent tonal restrictions this Melody Maker reissue is a joy to play, giving added credence to that wise old acronym KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid. And consider this. For under four-hundred pounds you'll be getting a real Gibson (100 per cent Stars and Stripes), an instrument made from seemingly high-quality materials and, by no means least, a plushy Gibson-logoed Protector case which has to be worth around a hundred sovs!
Review by Jerry Uwins
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