Hey guys it’s Brian from World Music Supply here again, sorry for the lack of a post Monday, but it was Labor day here in the good ol’ US of A and I had to spend it getting caught up on school work, so to all of our American readers, I hope you had a better Labor day than I, and to our foreign readers, I hope you had a pleasant Monday. Getting down to business, in today’s blog, I get to take a look at some cool guitars from our friends over at Jackson. As I’ve mentioned before, the formation of Jackson guitars is actually pretty weird, the company was formed by Grover Jackson shortly after he acquired Charvel Guitars. Jackson was initially a brand name applied to models that were so far from the norm, that he was worried releasing them under the Charvel name might damage the image of the brand. The First major guitar designed for the Jackson brand was the Concorde, which was designed in conjunction with one Randy Rhoads. This sleek revamp of the Flying V design was a radical departure for guitar design at the time (the very beginning of the 80s) and the redesign of many other older designs became a hallmark of Jackson guitars, and by association the majority of the guitar scene of the 1980s, with sleeker, more slender, and pointier versions of classic designs.
In today’s blog I get a chance to review a “proper” Randy Rhoads with the RRXMG in Snow White with Black Pin Stripes, and a more typical Jackson with the SLX Soloist in Kawasabi Green. First up is the RRXMG, which is a fairly liberal take on the classic Randy Rhoads Concorde, with the smaller modern Rhoads shape, and more modern details, like a compound radius fretboard, a Floyd Rose Special, and a set of EMG 81 and 85 pickups. This Rhoads is a sight to behold, its sleek white basswood and maple neck through body create an amazingly resonant and tuneful guitar.
Plugged in this guitar has that standard 81 85 speaking voice, with it’s darker clean sounds, with a warm, mellow attack and long singing sustain. The added body that the EMGs give to your clean tone are very noticeable on a guitar like this, as the neck through design adds plenty of body to the tone as well, resulting in a big, fat tone, even on the thinner sounding bridge pickup. Playing all of the neo-classical clean passages that Randy strategically placed throughout many famous Ozzy songs on a guitar like this really helps define why these modern modifications to a classic design are so useful. The addition of a modern compound radius means that all of those single notes runs and complex chords without worrying about your hand cramping up or fretting out during fast runs, and the fuller sounding active pickups add a clarity and body that normal humbucking pickups just couldn’t replicate.
Plugged into a Randall RT503H and its matching cabinet, this guitar has more than enough power to match those classic RR tones, with all of the punch and power that made the Rhoads guitar so infamous. Running through every Ozzy song I had memorized, this guitar pulled more than its weight, with tones that were as close to the record as I’ve ever heard them, and with more than enough power on hand to go far further thanks to the powerful EMG pickups. Switching out of Ozzy mode, I was able to comp some more modern metal tones from this guitar as well, simply by dropping the tuning a little, and letting the EMG pickups do what they do best, be as loud as absolutely possible. EMGs have the ability to stay tight no matter how high, or how low the tuning, with increased sustain and harmonic response thanks to their increased output.
In short the RRXMG is one powerful machine, with sustain for days, and a look and feel of one of the most famous guitars in metal history. For all of these facts the RRXMG earns itself a much deserved 10 out of 10.
Next up is the SLX Soloist, which while I picked the rather distinctive Kawasabi Green for the review, it’s available in both Black and Snow White as well. The reason I picked Kawasabi Green out of the other two colors is simply, because one, it is very distinct looking, and two, because Jackson Guitars was made famous by a handful of shredders back in the 80’s, and nothing says 80’s quite the same as a neon green guitar. This guitar comes outfitted with a through body maple neck, a Floyd Rose Special tremolo, a compound radius fretboard, and a set of Duncan Designed HB102 pickups.
Plugged into a clean amp, the HB102 humbuckers are smooth and warm sounding, allowing for clean jazzy runs and slick chord tones, made all the more enjoyable thanks to the comfortable neck profile and the compound fretboard radius, which made it easier to chord on the low end of the neck, and play quick runs on the upper end, without ever feeling strange or inappropriate. The bridge pickup was just snappy enough to help me cut through, but not so brash as to make using it on its own painful or annoying to listen to, and the neck was warm and clear, without being too bass heavy or muddy sounding.
Plugged into the same Randall RT503H and matching Randall Cabinet, the SLX proved itself quite versatile, able to pull off everything from modern metal grind, with dropped chords having a big beefy low end to them without losing too much high end, and having just as much power when it came to playing more traditional styles of rock. Tuned up in standard, this guitar had no problem banging out classic 80’s riffs that range from two handed Van Halen style brashness, to Police style chordal runs. The comfortable radius of the neck made this all the better, allowing me to play more natural all along the neck, and the Floyd Rose made any style of dive bomb, swirling vibrato, and high flying trem arm acrobatics a breeze, always coming back to tune no matter what I threw at it.
The Soloist has been a hallmark of the Jackson line for decades, and playing this guitar I understand why. I think it’s easier to understand what a super-strat really is, and why that style of guitar ruled the market place for nearly 20 years when you play a guitar like this, with all of it’s amazing appointments and its sheer array of tones, the SLX Soloist earns itself an easy 10 out of 10.