Brian May's home made Red Special guitar is one of the most distinctive looking and unique sounding guitars in Rock history. Constructed totally by Brian and his father Harold, the Red Special has graced pretty much every recording made by Brian that features electric guitar. Over the years he has been involved in several collaborations with various guitar companies, to produce a close replica at an affordable price. Early attempts by US manufacturer Guild resulted in the first official Red Special style/replica guitars. Following a departure from Guild, Brian next collaborated with Burns, producing a highly successful replica of the original guitar. This version introduced variations on the original that made the guitar much more affordable than the high end, totally authentic, replicas produced by luthiers like Greg Fryer from Australia, KZ from Japan, and Andrew Guyton from the UK.
Brian eventually moved production of the Burns over to his own company, Brian May Guitars, which he set up with the help of Barry Moorhouse of House Music, and Brian's long time guitar tech Pete Malandrone. The company now produces several variations of the Red Special including various BMG Specials in a variety of finishes: the BMG Super, the BMG Vision, a stripped down twin humbucker version, the BMG Mini May, the BMG Bass, the BMG Rhapsody Acoustic, and the BMG Uke.
We've actually reviewed a BMG Special in Guitar Interactive before, way back in issue 14, but we felt it deserved a second glance in a feature which is bound to spur readers to wonder what this surprisingly affordable instrument could offer them that they aren't already getting from other guitars. It also seemed pretty much essential to compare the BMG Special with the BMG Super, which we are taking a first look at in this issue.
To ring the changes at least a little, BMG sent us something a bit different from the normal Special everyone will immediately recognise and we were delighted to open the box to find a BMG Special Limited Edition in striking Windermere Blue - a pale metallic blue that gives the Special more than a hint of retro chic.
Visually there is no mistaking that this is a Brian May guitar, with the look and construction faithful to the original. There are obvious differences, though, which have all been considered to produce the highest quality replica of the original guitar that won't break the bank. Another interesting point that came up when I was talking with Pete Malandrone (see our interview in this issue) is that he discusses how BMG is trying to produce a guitar that isn't just for Brian May fans, but is something that stands up on its own against other popular brands.
The body shape is faithful to the original, and although is constructed from different wood to Brian's 'Old Lady', it features a chambered mahogany body with the chambering based on Brian's original design. This is finished off with a book matched mahogany top, with a six-ply pinstripe front and rear binding. The body and neck are finished in a high gloss lacquer and I have to say the finishing and binding are exquisite; no finish bleeding into the binding and no roughly finished edges. The guitar features a 24'