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Showing posts from December 20, 2020

1967 Univox 'Mystery' 12-String

Japan was famous for two things in the 1960s: Godzilla movies and crazy-shaped guitars. The object of our attention today is a 1967 Univox "Mystery" 12-string. A prime example of the mutant guitars that came from the Matsumoka guitar factory of the day, the guitar has an extreme body shape, like something from a sci-fi movie. Ash was the typical wood used for the bodies of Matsumoka guitars and maple for the neck. The rosewood fingerboard is topped with 21 frets and has "left justified" pearl-dot position markers. The elongated, assymetrical headstock is not angled, which necessitates a retainer bar just above the nut to act as a string guide and provide proper downbearing angle onto the nut. Tuners are the six-to-a-plate, worm-gear variety that are fairly reliable, but they can deteriorate with age.  The electronics include two pickups, neck and bridge, a three-way selector switch, and controls for volume and tone. The pickups remind me of the ones you'd find i

1992 Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor

While I’m on the subject of archtops, let me introduce you to the Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor. Archtop guitars usually fetch a pretty hefty price. I was glad to see Epiphone fill a market niche back in the Nineties with some affordable models that were very high quality instruments. The Joe Pass is an ornate guitar compared to the Godin previously reviewed—lots of inlay, multi-ply binding, gold hardware, and Joe Pass’ signature embossed in the pick guard. It’s not a guitar for a player who thinks “enough is enough and too much is vulgar.” It’s over the top on decoration.  The guitar has a laminated spruce top with laminated maple back and sides, which have some flame to them. The guitar came in a few classic finishes: natural, antique sunburst, cherry sunburst, black, and red. This is a small-body archtop with a 16” lower bout. Unlike acoustic archtops which are designed to be played in a jazz orchestra, the smaller body is not a downside. In fact, it’s more comfortable to hold and play.

Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin Archtop

Archtops are an acquired taste. Many acoustic players try them out an think, "Yuck!" because there is a seeming lack of resonance, sustain, and low end. Young electric players try them and crank them up where they get nothing but feedback. These players are unfamiliar with the music and role the archtop guitar was designed to play, namely that of a tuned percussion instrument in a swing band.  The archtop guitar was designed to project a very narrow range of frequencies, but project them well in a precise way. If you listen to old swing recordings from the Forties, you'll hear the archtop player playing chunky quarter notes in time with the high hat. It's almost like the high hat and the guitar blend to create the rhythm for dancing. In those days, jazz was dance music. It wasn't until the invention of the 33 1/3rd RPM long-play disc that jazz became something un-danceable. Archtops have a pronounced midrange spike that doesn't necessarily sound nice on its ow