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This article was originally published in issue #40
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Grover Jackson is a heavyweight name in electric guitar history, with strong ties to the Charvel and Jackson brands, which were everywhere in the '80s. When Wayne Charvel and Grover Jackson got together, we saw the birth of the infamous 'pointy' headstock superstrat. They were good times, full of back combed hair, locking tremolos and ripped jeans, all of which I did, but I never quite crossed the line by owning or playing a guitar with a pointy headstock. In 1985, Grover sold the company, which ended up in the hands of Fender, while Grover himself worked as a freelance consultant for other guitar makers before starting out under his own steam again in 2012.
Today, Grover Jackson has quite a range of GJ2 models, the flagship versions of which are the Select series. We peered hard at the GJ2 website, trying to work out exactly what the difference is between these and the Premium series and, frankly, ended up none the wiser. It would probably help if the website explained all that.
Also special to the Select models are added luxury appointments such as hand picked tonewoods and the highest quality components. These guitars are all made from scratch in the Laguna Hills, USA and each GJ2 Select guitar is personally inspected and played by Grover himself before it leaves the factory.
Our review guitar is called the GJ Select SMT Trans Emerald and if you are into green guitars, then this one is for you. The highly flamed maple capped body is stained a rich translucent Emerald Green which certainly makes a visual statement and would get you noticed even before you have played a single note. The flame cap on this one sits on an ash body rather than the more traditional mahogany, but other guitars in the Select SMT range offer the mahogany body, maple cap spec, if your heart is set on it. Grover has opted for a roasted maple neck on this one with a rosewood fret board. The roasted maple trend has recently swept the industry and apparently it does nice things to the stability and tone of the wood. On this guitar you would be forgiven for thinking that it's a solid rosewood neck, because the maple has turned almost as dark as the rosewood board which sits on it, but it is definitely maple. The 24 fret rosewood fretboard has Grovers own take on a compound radius, which makes the guitar effortless to play with a wide and flat feel to it that gives it a real nice modern feel, able to cater for any of today's advanced techniques. Specifically the compound radius is 10" to 14" which I don't think you will easily find on any other brand name guitar. It goes without saying the guitar plays exceptionally well, helped also by large tall frets. Everything is effortless and comfortable.
It's good to see a real Floyd Rose on this guitar, which I personally feel very at home with, though I know is not for everyone. Using a Floyd or any good trem system properly is an aspect of playing that many players ignore or simply can't grasp, but in the right hands it adds a whole realm of musical coolness. The guitar is also back routed on the body, so the trem is fully floating, allowing huge upward pull. For my playing style, the back route is a great and welcome addition. The association with Floyd Rose and Grover Jackson goes back decades and it's good to see the tradition carrying on. This guitar will not go out of tune, because not only does it have the Floyd locking nut, but it also has a set of locking Hipshot tuners, which is certainly leaving nothing to chance at the headstock end! Of course, these are all options and you can pretty much pick and choose the hardware of your dreams.
Pickups are two Habanero humbuckers and these are handwound in house. They sound nicely voiced, expressive, and are very controllable from the guitars volume pot. The five way switch splits the pick ups in position 2 and 4, and gives a combination of both neck and bridge in position 3. You don't get truly authentic Strat tones, but it certainly is in the ball park. The neck and bridge pick ups are warm and defined with a medium output that can roar or twang, depending on your mood.
The pale blue hard case this guitar comes with is one of the prettiest I have seen, and I think I would actually get a little disturbed as time inflicts its marks and scars that cases unfortunately accrue.
So the GJ2 Select range are in a market where demanding players want the best. In the same price bracket we are looking at Suhr, Tom Anderson, James Tyler, Charvel and new guy on the block John McGuire (son of Mike, of Valley Arts and Gibson fame). It's for players who probably own all the usual industry standard guitars, but that are looking for something a little bespoke and something that can deliver on many levels. That makes this is a real player's guitar and a very significant purchase at a fairly eye-watering price. However, if that's the league you are in and this is the sort of guitar that appeals, then you aren't going to go wrong here with a beautifully made, fine-sounding guitar that competes with those other brands on equal terms. Add a GJ2 Select to your audition list if you win the lottery.