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This article was originally published in issue #4
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Review of G&L 30th Anniversary ASAT Special -
Did Leo Fender ever better his original Telecaster? He certainly thought so, with the G&L ASAT. 30 years after the formation of the great man's last venture, G&L is celebrating with a range of highly collectible special editions. We borrowed a 30th Anniversary ASAT and handed it to Michael Casswell. Sometimes Christmas comes a little early...
It has been 30 years since George Fullerton and the late, great, Leo Fender got together to form G&L guitars. To celebrate this fact, the company has introduced a collection of 30th anniversary guitars across the range. Made at the G&L factory on Fender Avenue, Fullerton, California, the guitar we had for review was the Tele-style ASAT, which like all the 30th anniversary versions, comes resplendent in a white pearl frost. I guess that pearls have long been associated with a 30 year landmark, so what better colour? It's quite subtle and just looks white at distance, but on closer inspection, you see a nice metallic sheen to the white.
The headstock face also gets the white pearl paint and with the darkness of the ebony fretboard, the overall effect is quite dramatic without being over the top. It's nice to see they've used ebony for this guitar, which gives the snap and bark of maple, but with a nice smooth, faster feel.
The ASAT's neck has a classic C profile, which fills the hand without feeling too big or small, and should cater for all tastes. It's constructed from plain hard rock maple, which should make it very stable when played hard on long tours, that can be the the ruin of thin Japanese shred-type necks, or pretty birdseye or flame grained types. Highly figured maple necks need to be of very high quality seasoned wood to not be affected by temperature and climate changes that a guitar encounters when on tour, and that type of quality wood is getting harder and harder for guitar makers to source, so hard rock maple is the sensible choice for stability and cost.
The pickups are a pair of G&L high output single coils, which look and sound like P90s, giving the guitar a gutsy bark, or a warm twang, depending on how you play and how you set your amp. Hopefully, the footage of me playing the guitar should give you a better idea. I used a Keeley Blues Driver into the clean channel of a 100 Watt Blackstar head for the demo. The body is alder, and has a medium weight. I always look for lightness in my own guitars, and although the ASAT didn't strike me as being extra light, it certainly wasn't heavy, and had a good acoustic ring to it before it was plugged in, which transferred to a nice alive feel through the amp.
The set-up on this guitar, in my opinion, could have done with a tweak. The action was a just a tiny bit too high for my liking and I know it could feel easier and slicker to play than it does now. The quality of the neck and frets are superb, however, and with a few small adjustments, I could have this guitar playing its best within 30 minutes. It's a fact that a higher action gives a better tone, so the best set up is one that's high enough to let the strings ring, but low enough to play your most impressive lines. The moral here, of course, is always buy a guitar with a set-up to suit your tastes included in the price!
Personally, I'm always wary of guitars that are painted solid colours, because you never know whether the body is made of one solid piece of wood, or three or four pieces glued together. There's nothing wrong with a body being made from separate pieces: it can still ring and be just as acoustically alive as a one piece body, but because quality wood is getting harder to source, guitar makers cannot afford to waste good tonewood and the answer is usually a solid colour paint finish, that hides glued-together pieces. I'm not saying that is the case here and, in fact, I've never played a bad G&L. I've tried many and I would gladly buy one unseen and unplayed, knowing it would be great, solid colour or not. I wish I could say the same for the products of one or two other 'top brands'! But I do think it's worth thinking about as a general rule when you're offered a guitar with a solid colour finish.
At the G&L factory, Leo Fender's office and workshop is as it was left when he died in March 1991. I like that fact! It shows huge respect to his heritage and name. Leo Fender was a special guy, and we all owe him a huge thank you for giving us so many perfect guitars. It's great to know that G&L guitars are still producing true, made in the U.S. instruments he would be very proud of.
If you are in the market for a professional guitar that does a Tele's job, a G&L ASAT has to be right at the top of your list - not to at least compare it with the alternatives would be silly. This special edition is a step even further. It's going to be quite rare and it it isn't even particularly expensive for a US-made guitar that comes with a good case. This is one to cherish!