Gibson Victory, Moderne
The reason for the name isn't hard to guess - the boys at Kalamazoo were out to defeat Fender when they designed this guitar which has a shape, feel and sound angled towards Strat fans.
The Victory comes in two versions — the two pickup MV7 and this three pickup MV10. The neck is 24¼ in scale length and is permanently fixed to the body.
Now the pickups are different. The one in the centre is a stacked humbucker; ie, two sets of coils one above the other, instead of side by side. There's an argument which says you cannot adequately impersonate the sound of a single coil pickup by disconnecting one coil from a pair of humbuckers. The magnets still exert their influence. But site the second coil under the first and it should collect enough signal through the pole pieces to prevent hum, but not get in the way of a single coil sound.
And take a look at the bridge. Out goes the good old Tune-O-Matic and in comes a "top-lock" variety. The plastics saddles sit in a metal groove, but gone are the intonation screws. Instead you shift them about with your finger then tighten a screw on top to secure them with less chance of drift when you play.
As an extra lure to Fender men, the Victory has thinner frets than most Gibsons. The neck profile has likewise been altered. The strap button on the upper bout is roughly level with the 12th fret, so the headstock is much closer to your body than it would be on an SG or a Les Paul. The pickup selector is a five-way slider offering neck/neck and middle/middle/middle and tail/tail but not out of phase positions. One extra toggle taps the coils, and the the controls are the standard two volumes, two tones; stiff to begin with but prepared to wear in.
But the vital question is, does it sound like a you know what?
Well, if you're looking for a perfect imitation, then no, it doesn't. It's a good Gibson, it's even a good Gibson/Fender combination, but it couldn't be passed off as a Strat.
These latest designs have introduced an extra high peakiness to the pickups. There's a fierce bite in the uppermost registers bringing out all the harmonics and squeaks. The stacked humbucker is a cracker, not so much on its own but when it's mixed with the other two and then it straddles the Gibson/Fender barrier, one foot in a bluesy sweetness, the other in a countryfied twang.
Yet the bridge pickup is a disappointment. It's very bright but underpowered compared with the other two, and a medium weight body reduces the sustain. In fact as Gibson's go, it falls somewhere between a heavier Les Paul and an SG.
The true bonus of the Victory is that you can flick from fat sonority to bristling treble — many guitars are good at one extreme but not both. Still it begs the question, is that what you really want?
If I was going to pay for a new Gibson I would want it to sound like a Gibson from top to bottom and not make a transformation halfway down the pickups.
If I wanted a Fender, I'd buy one. £775
Possibly the greatest guitar that never was, the Moderne is one of the strangest skeletons to haunt Gibson's cupboard. According to Kalamazoo records, 21 were shipped out in the late Fifities. None has ever come to light and most experts believe it existed only as a prototype alongside the Explorer and Flying V which did become popular.
For Gibson to recreate it now in limited numbers is a move that emphasises the value, tradition and collectability of their products, but could indicate a head being scratched for ideas.
The upper half of the Moderne had a wing similar to a Flying V and the guitars shared several features. They were both made from Korina, an African wood similar to mahogany, had a natural finish, twin humbuckers and Tune-O-Matic bridge (gold in this case) plus a superbly tacky gold-plated, plastic, raised Gibson logo stuck to the headstock.
Last tear, Gibson re-issued the original Flying V with all its trimmings intact. The Moderne is equally authentic — if you can be correct about something that may never have existed in a production form.
First impressions were not good. The overall shape, weird wedgy headstock and especially the very thick, chunky neck put me off. It was the sound that won me round. The Moderne's throaty and soulful voice could make strong men weep. I went crazy with finger vibrato because each lovingly sustained note grew bigger and bigger, wailing out of the back of the speakers.
Sometimes you forget how magical a guitar can sound — you hit a chord and suddenly there appear to be three more strings than usual. It's the instrument's extra harmonic richness, and the Moderne sang on all three pickup positions — not a duff one in earshot.
For feel it hangs well, is fairly light but at wild moments I found my left hand and right elbow colliding with the two ends of the strap. It wasn't as easy to reach the highest frets as I expected.
In design it's the headstock that presents the largest drawback. The A, D, G and B strings all have to pass round string posts at sharp angles to reach the pearloid machines which resemble the Klusons of the original but are stamped "Gibson".
The body is in two pieces of Korina which polishes up to a dark buttermilk colour and the black/white/black/white/black scratchplate is small, just covering the area around the pickups. Incidentally the only sketch I've seen of a Moderne (in the excellent if expensive Mediapresse book "Gibson Electrics"), doesn't show a scratchplate, nor any controls for that matter.
The two volume and single tone controls are in a straight line, heading towards the stubby leg of the bottom half of the guitar and they're fitted with black plastic bonnet knobs. The jack socket brings up the rear.
It looks like macassar ebony for the 22 fret fingerboard which demonstrates the only let down in the otherwise high quality construction. The mother-of-pearl dot markers are scruffy, but that's a tiny whinge. £950
Had the Moderne been released in the late Fifties, it may not have done well at the time but would have romped home in the heavy rock explosion of the Sixties and early Seventies. It contains all the burning power of that era.
1983 is another year and a different sound... we'll have to see.
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Review by Paul Colbert
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