Gibson ES-359 in Pelham Blue Review

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gibson-es-359-pelham-blueGibson’s Custom Shop isn’t so fixated on producing new Les Pauls that look as though they’ve spent 50 years on the road that it can’t occasionally turn out something a bit different. The ES-359 in Pelham Blue proves the point, rounding out the series of smaller-bodied semi-acoustics that Gibson have had a lot of success with over the last few years. The guitar is really a ‘Custom’ version of an ES-339, featuring an Ebony fingerboard and split diamond inlays on the bound headstock.

Pelham Blue was always a problem colour for Gibson. It was undoubtedly their answer to Fender’s Lake Placid Blue – without the metallic flake – but nevertheless a departure from the ubiquitous and popular Sunburst and Cherry Red guitars that Gibson made in great numbers in the sixties. The Cadillac inspired finish – available between ’63 and ’69 – was mostly applied to Firebirds and some Melody Makers, as well as the occasional SG and ES-335, but original guitars were minuscule in number and now appear more of a green than blue colour, the ravages of sunlight having played havoc with the acrylic composition of the lacquer.

Unlike the ES-339 which offers two neck options, the ES-359 comes with a ‘Lucille’- (B.B King’s ES-355) profile neck, which is fatter at the 12th fret than the ES-339. This particular review guitar is from a short run of Pelham Blue guitars and features chrome hardware throughout, whereas the regular Sunburst version has gold parts. The guitar also features the ‘Memphis Tone Circuit’, which uses a logarithmic system to analyse the way the volume controls affect tone. Custom Shop engineers developed a special 500K audio taper pot to preserve the high-end as the volume decreases, and Gibson claim that this gives the guitar a ‘sweeter, brighter and punchier’ tone.

Pick-ups are the ever popular Classic ’57s and you can’t really argue that they’re perfect on this guitar, producing everything from a credible jazz mellowness to wiry country through to full-on blues/rock fatness. That’s the beauty of these types of instruments – they can cover just about all the angles. The guitar feels right straightaway, well balanced and less unwieldy than a full-size ES-335, but with a more extensive tonal spectrum than a Les Paul. The front pick-up is a joy, and through my Engl Classic test amp set clean produced some complex and very sweet guitar sounds, at the same time offering a very easy neck to get around on. There’s something about ebony fingerboards that definitely adds a brightness and clarity that you don’t get with rosewood and this guitar takes full advantage if you let it. With a medium overdrive on the amp you’re in Ford/Carlton territory – with a pure, fat tone emanating from the speakers that’s going to put a rather large smile on your face.

Love the colour or hate it, this guitar sure has individuality. It’s a limited run, so the collectability factor has to be taken into consideration when justifying the expense of owning the Gibson ES-359. Run through a top-flight amp, the tones that this little semi can produce are world-class and it will be a fine addition to anyone’s guitar collection.

About MNJ

Marc Noel-Johnson has written 962 post in this blog.

MNJ has been writing articles, reviews and blogs for the DV online magazine for the last five years or so. Although he has been playing for longer than he cares to remember and is now officially an 'oldie', he is still mad for all things guitar related and when not busy in his studio he's learning new songs, practising bluegrass guitar, painting his house and taking his dogs out. If banished to a desert island and forced to take only one guitar he'd take a Les Paul. Actually, make that several Les Pauls, a Strat, a Tele, an ES-335, a vintage Martin and some boutique amps. Battery powered obviously.

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MNJ has been writing articles, reviews and blogs for the DV online magazine for the last five years or so. Although he has been playing for longer than he cares to remember and is now officially an 'oldie', he is still mad for all things guitar related and when not busy in his studio he's learning new songs, practising bluegrass guitar, painting his house and taking his dogs out. If banished to a desert island and forced to take only one guitar he'd take a Les Paul. Actually, make that several Les Pauls, a Strat, a Tele, an ES-335, a vintage Martin and some boutique amps. Battery powered obviously.