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I've been wanting a 1950s-spec Les Paul Custom for a while--mahogany top rather than maple. They're not easy to come by unless you want to pay extortionate prices for a Gibson '57 Historic.

Enter the Japanese and their wide variety of lawsuit Les Pauls.

I pulled the trigger on this one that was being sold by a wonderful shop called Nico Nico Guitars in Tokyo. I sent payment on Monday evening and figured I'd have to wait at least a week to receive the guitar. I check the FedEx tracking number this morning, and HOLY SHIT IT'S ARRIVING TODAY. Best service ever.

It's a 2014 FGN NLC-200, "FGN" being Fujigen's house brand.













Here's a link to the page for the current version of this model: https://fgnguitarsusa.com/collections/neo-classic/products/nlc20emh. The shape of the current one has been slightly modified so that Fujigen can sell them worldwide, including the USA. I prefer the classic LP shape and wanted one of the older domestic ones.

First impressions: Very high quality. Fairly heavy--slightly over 9.5 lbs. It has a lacquer top coat over poly, so the look and feel up close is somewhat different than a Gibson with nitro. The frets don't have binding nibs but are very well finished and slightly taller than Gibson frets--I wouldn't have minded if they were a little taller still.

The mahogany top makes this guitar sound humongous. LPCs often sound brittle in having both an ebony board and a thick maple cap, and IMHO the mahogany top goes a lot better with an ebony board. I'm assuming that Gibson switched to maple tops from the solid one-piece mahogany of the '50s originals just to save money when they reissued the LPC in 1968, since they can use the same body blanks and production methods for Standards and Customs that way.

What surprised me was how good the JB/59 combo sounds in this guitar. Those are two of my least favorite pickups, and they both sound amazing in this guitar. The JB might be slightly too dark for this guitar, but I'm going to live with it for awhile. I'll probably swap to a set of Wolfetone Marshallheads for more dynamics and detail, but it's not necessary just to get a good usable tone.

As you may know, it's easy enough to do window-shopping for Japanese guitars on digimart.net, but you find that most Japanese shops won't ship internationally. The bigger stores like Ishibashi and Kurosawa Music are an exception, but so many of the cooler used guitars are at smaller stores. Fortunately, not only does Nico Nico ship internationally (and understand English), but they accept PayPal in addition to the usual wire transfer that some Japanese stores use for international transactions.

Their focus is on extremely expensive boutique guitars (mostly American), and they don't advertise the Japanese domestic brands on the English version of their site. Google Translate is your friend, though, and they have a decent selection of Japanese guitars on their site.

Fujigen also has a nice selection of FGN models, most of which are not copies of anything else. It's funny that they make lawsuit Les Pauls (both for their own brand and others), given that they have manufactured Gibson's own Japanese Orville and Epiphone Elitist lines for years. I suppose it's not the execs at Gibson actually pay attention, or anything! :lol:
 

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Guitarded
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what a cool guitar man! I never heard of a mahogany top so that's different. looks like its got some dings but its a pretty guitar. i bet it sounds righteous.
 

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Those FNG guitars are catching my attention. They most certain are top notch like Ibanez best Prestige levels but without paying for the Ibanez logo.
 

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Japan is a guitar nuts Heaven I have found lately, so many versions of cool guitars we dont get over here. That thing is awesome, and is in no way < a Gibson to me. Ever since my first Ibanez RS240 to my Charvel 750XL 30+ years ago I have known the magic of Japanease guitars.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
what a cool guitar man! I never heard of a mahogany top so that's different. looks like its got some dings but its a pretty guitar. i bet it sounds righteous.
The original Les Paul Customs from 1954-59 had a one-piece mahogany body with no maple cap. They were aimed at jazz players, so the idea was to have a darker but cleaner sound than the Standard, which I presume was built to compete with the Fender Telecaster and thus aimed at country players.

The entire Les Paul line was a commercial failure in the '50s and didn't become popular until the British blues guys in the '60s discovered them. When Gibson reintroduced the Les Paul line in 1968, they put a maple cap on the Customs, thus massively changing the tone.

They're really two different instruments. A number of iconic players are associated with each--Peter Frampton, Robert Fripp, and Steve Hackett all played '50s LPCs, while Randy Rhoads and John Sykes are well-known for playing '70s era LPCs with the maple cap. The one-off Yamaha that Carlos Santana played in the late '70s was structurally a lot like an LPC but had a mahogany cap rather than the maple of the production version Yamaha made (the SG2000).

Personally, I prefer the tone of an LPC without the maple cap, but the 'modern' version with the maple undoubtedly has more bite and will cut through any mix known to humankind.

Those FNG guitars are catching my attention. They most certain are top notch like Ibanez best Prestige levels but without paying for the Ibanez logo.
No doubt! While I was researching these various lawsuit LPs, this beauty came up in my Reverb searches, and thank goodness somebody else pulled the trigger and saved me from committing a gross financial error!

https://reverb.com/item/35351242-fujigen-expert-elan-fgn-eel-qm-2011-trans-blue-quilt?show_sold=true

Expected an Edwards but this is equally badass. :metal:
I've been tempted by the Edwards LPCs for *years*, but they all have maple caps. Also, I prefer Fujigen's fretwork generally to ESP's, and Fujigen adds a nice touch of real MOP inlays to this model, while the Edwards LPCs all have plastic inlays (presumably not to drive business away from ESP's $$$$$$ Navigator LPCs). Otherwise, they're probably comparable.

Tokai probably makes the nicest lawsuit LPCs at the moment, and if I had wanted to spend more money, this is the '50s spec LPC I would have gone for: https://reverb.com/item/30776015-tokai-lc235-wr-1839294-2018-made-in-japan-yk012

As it is, this guitar arrived at my door for just over $900, so I really can't complain.
 

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I am Groot
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I don't particularly follow Les Paul lore, but I have to assume that a large part of their popularity is because of the enduring coolness of Jimmy Page. He's like the James Dean or Steve McQueen of guitar players. Page with a low slung LP over his shoulder is the top of Looking Cool Mountain.

(And all the djent kids chest rocking weird headless ergo models are the fucking Marianas Trench.)





 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I don't particularly follow Les Paul lore, but I have to assume that a large part of their popularity is because of the enduring coolness of Jimmy Page. He's like the James Dean or Steve McQueen of guitar players. Page with a low slung LP over his shoulder is the top of Looking Cool Mountain.
Yes, and he's also the number one reason why affluent boomer lawyers/doctors are willing to pay $10k+ for an R9 to hang on their wall. Everyone now talks about Peter Green or Clapton on the John Mayall "Beano" record as the iconic '59 burst guys, but nobody in America gave a shit about any of that in 1975. It was all about Jimmy Page posing like the ultimate rock god.

The funny thing is, a huge percentage of his studio work in Zeppelin was done on other types of guitars.
 

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Yes, and he's also the number one reason why affluent boomer lawyers/doctors are willing to pay $10k+ for an R9 to hang on their wall. Everyone now talks about Peter Green or Clapton on the John Mayall "Beano" record as the iconic '59 burst guys, but nobody in America gave a shit about any of that in 1975. It was all about Jimmy Page posing like the ultimate rock god.
Spot on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The Les Paul Custom has never had that single iconic player who turned it into a cultural landmark.

Peter Frampton is probably the closest, but he didn't have the same impact on teenage rocker wannabes as Page did.

Other notable LPC players have followings among guitarists, Sykes, Al DiMeola, etc., but not at that level of impact.

Randy Rhoads might have, but he mostly gets associated with his namesake Jackson now despite the fact that almost all of his recordings (and most of his live performances) were with a '74 LPC.
 

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Argh
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There's a few shops here in the UK that sell the FGN guitars. I've played 5 or 6 and they've all been fantastic in sound and build quality. Nice score!
 

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Randy Rhoads might have, but he mostly gets associated with his namesake Jackson now despite the fact that almost all of his recordings (and most of his live performances) were with a '74 LPC.
Ace, too - the 3 Pickup Custom always makes me think of Ace - but yeah, Randy used the Custom a lot when he knew he was being recorded. About 2/3rds of the pics you see of Randy are with the original Concorde (which is really a shitty design, IMO) or the Sandoval, though, which are much more visual.
 

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Randy Rhoads might have, but he mostly gets associated with his namesake Jackson now despite the fact that almost all of his recordings (and most of his live performances) were with a '74 LPC.
No way. Skinny, tiny dude playing a pola-dot metal shaped guitar who weighed 100lbs soaking wet?

Dudes pick up the guitar for one reason only. Chicks. Jimmy Page's look said "I WILL DESTROY ALL THE POON". Randy's look said "I WILL DESTROY EVERYONE ELSE AT THE METAL JAM SESSION".

Not even close here. :lol:
 
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