Ne­wark st blues bird

Guild’s lat­est elec­tric re­vives a clas­sic name, but it’s far from an­other retro reis­sue. Will the 2016 Blues­bird achieve clas­sic sta­tus? We see how it flies…

Guitarist - - Contents - Words Dave Bur­rluck

The gen­e­sis of the Blues­bird goes back to 1954 when fledg­ling New York-based Guild Gui­tars re­leased its first orig­i­nal de­sign, the Aris­to­crat M-75 – a down-sized jazz box with a sealed top and classed by Guild as a “light­weight, semi-solid mid­get model… in a class by it­self”. The ‘M’ of its name, in­ci­den­tally, stood for mid­get.

It lasted un­til 1963 but reap­peared as just the M-75 in 1967, and by ’68 it was coined the Blues­bird M-75, the name sug­gested by Louis Dronge (younger brother of Guild founder, Al­fred Dronge, and Guild sales rep in the New Eng­land area), who, ac­cord­ing to Guild Gui­tar Book au­thor Hans Moust, had no­ticed that the orig­i­nal Aris­to­crat M-75 had be­come pop­u­lar with blues play­ers in the Bos­ton area.

While the orig­i­nal Aris­to­crat had fea­tured dual ‘Fre­quency Tested’ P-90-style sin­gle coils, this first Blues­bird sported Guild’s small hum­buck­ers, a new head­stock shape and a stair-step pick­guard. It was dis­con­tin­ued in 1972, two years af­ter a solid­body ver­sion, the

Blues­bird M-75 CS (in chrome with rose­wood fin­ger­board), and GS (gold-plated with an ebony ’board) ver­sions had ap­peared with Guild’s larger hum­buck­ers, a dis­tinct Ger­man­made roller sad­dle Ad­jus­toMatic bridge and slanted-block string an­chor.

A more Les Paul-look­ing semi-solid Night­bird ap­peared in 1985, but the Blues­bird didn’t make a come­back un­til over a decade later when the then-Fender-owned brand re­leased a high-ticket USA-made Blues­bird, mod­elled seem­ingly on the Night­bird rather than the orig­i­nal M-75 shape. This new gui­tar was joined by var­i­ous M-75-alikes that re­tained the orig­i­nal shape in the Kore­an­made DeAr­mond by Guild line.

By the end of that decade, those had pretty much gone and the trail goes dead un­til the new Guild Ne­wark St Col­lec­tion, which was con­ceived by Fender and con­tin­ued by new own­ers Cor­doba. Within this col­lec­tion was a reis­sued close clone of the orig­i­nal Aris­to­crat: the M-75 Aris­to­crat (in­tro­duced in 2013), a cool-enough retro piece, but as any­one who’s played one will agree, it doesn’t sound like Gib­son’s finest! Which is where our new Blues­bird comes in: less of a vin­tage re­pro and more like that first Fender-era semi-solid Blues­bird in style and con­struc­tion.

It might be less vin­tage-spe­cific than the cur­rent M-75 Aris­to­crat, but it still re­tains Guild’s orig­i­nal take on the Les Paul out­line with its broader lower body and rounded horn. We get the ‘cen­tre-raised’ Guild head­stock with its Ch­ester­field logo, but those and the trans­par­ent G-logo con­trol knobs are the only real Guild ap­point­ments. There’s no pick­guard, the bridge and tail­piece are Gib­son-style parts, al­beit of Tone Pros’ ex­cel­lent lock­ing va­ri­ety, and Sey­mour Dun­can’s JB and ’59 (with pull/push coil-splits on the tone con­trols) re­place Guild’s own hum­buck­ers.

The new Blues­bird has less of a vin­tage re­pro and is more like that first Fender-era semisolid Blues­bird in style and con­struc­tion

Guild states that both the M-75 Aris­to­crat and this new ’Bird have ‘cham­bered’ bod­ies, and while the shapes are pretty much iden­ti­cal, the bod­ies them­selves are very dif­fer­ent. The Aris­to­crat is deeper at the rim (55mm with an over­all depth of 62mm); the new Blues­bird is 40mm at the rim with an over­all depth of 49mm. The Aris­to­crat is com­pletely hol­low with dual lon­gi­tu­di­nal top braces and a braced back, whereas the Blues­bird has a solid cen­tre block and hol­low sides with a flame maple ve­neered carved top (a Jet Black ver­sion is also of­fered), con­se­quently mak­ing the Aris­to­crat lighter at 2.5kg (5.5lb), while the far-from-heavy Blues­bird weighs in at 2.98kg (6.56lb).

Feel & Sounds

If the Blues­bird looks modern com­pared with the Aris­to­crat, es­pe­cially in this Ice Tea Burst, the weight makes it im­me­di­ately en­gag­ing. Strapped on, not sur­pris­ingly, it feels more solid­body, with an ex­pected lower acous­tic vol­ume. The neck shape is a lit­tle thin­ner depth’d than any of our other modern Guilds, too: the Aris­to­crat mea­sures 21.5mm at the 1st fret, 23.8mm at the 12th; the ’Bird mea­sures 20.8mm at the 1st and 22.8mm at the 12th – which is enough to make a dif­fer­ence. And although the scale length, fin­ger­board cam­ber and frets all seem pretty sim­i­lar, the mod­ernism of the ’Bird is again high­lighted by its clean mother-of-pearl block in­lays com­pared with less tidily in­laid aged-pearloid blocks of the Aris­to­crat.

Still, the new ’Bird plays ex­cep­tion­ally well. The pretty tall medium jumbo wire is ef­fort­less for bend­ing, in­to­na­tion is spot-on and there’s a qual­ity to the feel – like PRS’s SEs, for ex­am­ple – that punches above its price. The pre­mium-choice pick­ups drop us right into clas­sic blues/rock ter­ri­tory. The ’59 at the neck nails a hugely us­able PAF-alike voice that’s not overly spikey and very vo­cal with some gain boost. There’s a strong up­per-mid grunt to the bridge JB that, again, re­ally be­gins to earn its money with some light to medium gains. The coil-splits are a sur­prise – they’re not men­tioned on Guild’s info page – and voice the slug sin­gle coils.

As ever, add a bit of air into a body and it be­comes ar­guably harder than a solid­body to pi­geon­hole. Com­pared with our ref­er­ence PRS Sin­gle­cut, it’s lighter and brighter; com­pared with an ES-335, it doesn’t quite

Pho­tog­ra­phy Neil God­win



3. Although it’s a thin­linestyle, un­like the Starfires we get solid­body-like con­trol cav­ity plates, which makes any main­te­nance or mod­ding of pick­ups and electrics a lot eas­ier! 3

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