Features: Other reviewers have stated this guitar is American made, with Canadian parts. Pretty sure it's the other way around, guys, and this would account for the sharp rise in price as soon as you cross the border into the States. But I could be wrong. In any case, although mine is made with 24 frets, this has been shortened to 22 in more recent editions... Just as well, since you needed fingers like a squirrel monkey to play those 23rd & 24th frets anyway. The body is solid mahogany, the neck mahogany with a rosewood board. Mine is a natural finish, which I prefer to the "painted" guitars, and this finish is so thin it feels like naked wood. This does tend to make the instrument vulnerable to the ding goblins, but if you really care about your instrument then you should be making sure that does not matter... And the LG is a tool for those who care! Besides, the gig bag is a good one and helps you keep it safe.
The body style is what I first fell in love with. I have been playing electric for 25 years on and off, and for a long time was an exclusively Gibson type of player; my first real guitar (after fooling around with a Vantage Avenger) was an L6S Custom, I now have my eye on an $800 Les Paul (in my dreams), and I've always had a soft spot for those obnoxious freakin' SGs. Later on, I began giving Fender Strats some grudging but serious regard because of their greater tonal versatility and what I consider better guts, but have never liked the big painted sports-car ugliness or the bland noiselessness of most of them; actually, I almost like Telecasters better because of their bitey sound and classier look, but wistfully turn them down because these features don't make up for what they lack. I looked at Epiphones (basswood, bah humbug). I looked at Ibanezes (closer, but... Meh...).
Enter the Godin. This thing is cut like a small Les Paul, but flat, combining the shape of my two favorite-shaped axes, the LP and the SG. The fretboard is flat also, and for me this all adds up to superb action and overall physical playability. Although the neck is bolted in like a Strat, its deep-laid mounting and through-the-body string route combine to give it a lot more sustain, though not enough to compete with an LP. This is nice, as I get both a nice long note and a guitar I can work on. Actually, the shape is a lot like my old L6S, but without the cold slickness of a gloss finish, which used to make me cringe when I played it shirtless on a HOT day. The knobs are basic: a gain and a tone. It doesn't have as much gain as a Gibson-cut Ibanez ART100 (the loudest guitar I have ever played). What it does have are sweet, sweet Seymour Duncan P90 pups, two of 'em, and a 3-way selector switch, and boy, you will notice a difference between those 3 settings! No guitar I've played, other than the Strat and my old L6S Custom (with its 6-way selector switch), beats the LG in terms of vocal range. I only wish the body were just a tad bigger and heavier. // 9
Sound: What all this physics adds up to is the vocally quirkiest and hands-down most ARTICULATE guitar I have ever played. Before it ever reaches the amp or pedals, it has all the tone I need for jazzy liquid runs, talky blues and funk, twangy country and airy folk rock. This tone varies so much with just slight differences in finger-touch, with the flat and grainy board backing the string up, that the 3-way switch might as well be a 6-way, and any effects pedals you use can be relegated to providing... Well, not so much COLOR as slight, subtle TINT. This "tonguey" or tongue-like quality suits my eclectic influences like no other guitar. But in general, its tone (as heard through my Fender Twin Reverb amp and played with fingernails, not usually a pick) is bright and glassy on the mid and top range, with a poppy attack reminiscent of a Telecaster and jazz, but with the ability to deliver fat, funky burps on the bottom end, and it's also very, very warm from top to bottom; it's the bluesiest axe I ever laid my hands on. I still personally prefer the sound of the Les Paul, but not by much, and the Godin is just so different from the Gibson that I know the two will always sit next to each other on my stage... After I can afford the Gibson, that is!
The only thing it really doesn't have much natural aptitude for is fuzz, being kind of a light air and deep water type of lady (very delicate and smooth), but add a good gain distortion and/or overdrive pedal (in my case, a Boss Heavy Metal II and a Boss OS-2) and you've basically got it all, and the distortion you can get with such a team sounds like what I can only imagine heroin must feel like. Remember, as I mentioned before, the deep-seated neck allows for a lot more sustain than the nearly-as-versatile Fender, and with a little more gain added via my HM II, what you've got is basically the love-child of a Les Paul and a Telecaster, but with more tongue. Add to this a nice old MXR Phase 100, and you have a snarling, slippery tornado with teeth and claws. It can feedback like a God, too, and you can cut the feedback down as cleanly as you want.
The reverb on my Twin amp is usually set at about 3 with medium intensity, making the LG sound like a breeze through willow leaves when I don't phase or distort. Besides the phase and distortion pedals, I also use others. The only one I do much messing with on this particular guitar is the EB volume pedal, a pairing that can produce some nice imitation pedal steel multi-string bend or slide licks. I use a Vox wah (very sparingly with the LG, as the guitar already talks plenty without much help). I don't adjust my graphic EQs at all with it, as I can EQ it from the strings just fine with my fingertips. I DO use the MXR Carbon Copy analog delay a fair amount, when I want to get psychedelic, which is fun to do on the Godin. Another that gets some use is the Boss OC-2 octave divider, but with this axe I find it unnecessary and somewhat abusive to have the stabilizer or ring modulator on: it would seem like an insult to the LG. But the best combo of all - the real ear-candy equivalent of Turkish delight - is the pairing of the Godin LG SP90 with the genuine late '70s Mutron III envelope filter (although I hear the newer Q-Tron is supposed to be just as good, and smaller). This is my favorite effects box with ANY instrument, but it sounds better with an LG than with even the Les Paul, as the LG's woody and glassy pop and twang feeds on the Mutron's vocalizing abilities, producing a language all its own. Normally I rate the LG a 7 and the Les Paul an 8 for sound, but for me the addition of the Mutron turns the LG into a 9, which I would say it does not do for other guitars. // 7
Action, Fit & Finish: I have long, strong hands with narrow, sensitive, independent fingers, and I like to play shirtless a lot, especially at home. The LG fits my hands and seduces me to play it like no other guitar I've ever played. The grainy feel of the fretboard and minimal, thin body finish fit my nerves like a glove. The action is almost reverse-intuitive, as if the guitar were playing me, though I wouldn't call it low even so; "springy" is the word that comes to mind. Sorry, but it really doesn't play like any other guitar, any more than the Grateful Dead played like any other rock and roll band. Actually, the action of the LG reminds me of the draw on a high quality compound bow: heavy at the start of the pull, but tapering off as the string gets closer to your face. The guitar's strings offer combined noticeable resistance and magnetic-feeling connectivity with the fretboard, a major factor in what I have called its "articulate" tonality. The Schaller bridge and strung-thru body design doubtlessly also add to this.
Even so, there are some issues. For one thing, it's a fairly noisy guitar, electrically speaking. The otherwise superb P90 pickups tend to hyper-sense a bit, detracting from its otherwise clean sound. On this level only, the LG HB might be a better choice than the LG SP90, but if I want another guitar with Humbuckers I will make myself earn the money for a Les Paul; besides, it's only a slight hum, and the Ibanez is way noisier. The volume and tone knobs also crackle a bit, which would be super annoying, but I have a volume pedal anyway, and I don't use tone knobs much.
All in all, the fit is as close to a 10 as I can get without having one made for me. If I ever do that, I will probably ask Robert Godin to do it. // 9
Reliability & Durability: I have not yet taken my LG out on the stage, as it is too new, but I have every reason to believe it will be the best live player I own at this point in my life. I can't wait to hear it through the speaker cabinets. However, although it's too early to tell with any practical certainty, I feel sketchy about some of the hardware - the knobs in particular. I have heard that the strap buttons have a tendency to detach themselves, endangering both the guitar's delicate finish (though its mahogany body is like the wood equivalent of titanium) and the guitarist's toes, but I don't do any weird jumpy or dancey acrobatics on stage, lessening the potential for this danger. For me, these are not serious issues, but they do make the LG SP90 a little less of a bargain, though no less a masterpiece.
Let it be understood that this is not a guitar for reckless, careless, abusive, hot-dog guitarists. If you have developed the skill and taste for one of these things, then you are not the kind of player who will drop it, no matter how flimsy the strap buttons might be, and you are not the kind who goes to ANY gig without at least two guitars (I bring three usually... The Godin is my fourth). Unfortunately, you ARE the kind who will wear down the finish by playing the crap out of it, and it does seem like this would be pretty easy to do. // 7
Overall Impression: For a guitarist who plays traditionalistically literate, organic rock and roll songs with heavy doses of folk, blues, jazz fusion and nasty funk with growing techno-boogey and world influences, and an occasional whisper of heavy metal darkness, in a highly eclectic and multidisciplinary jam band, the Godin LG SP90 is the perfect choice. Again, only by having one custom-made for me could I improve on it. It is only my second "real" guitar, and I no longer own the first (my Gibson L6S). I have played a few Epiphone Les Pauls that I mostly hate, some pretty good used Gibson SGs, a few nice Strat copies (the sunbursts aren't too terribly ugly), a classic series 70's Fender Strat with an ash body that I can maybe almost afford used, and the one that became my second choice: an Ibanez ART100, which I almost did buy. Now that I have the Godin, I need search no further... For now. For one who cannot afford both a Strat and an ART, a used LG SP90 is a real treat.
I will never lose this guitar, and if I do then I don't deserve a new one for a long time. I plan on ensuring it before it is taken out of my regional playing field, and even then, I'm sleeping with the sucker! The last guitar I loved anything like this much was a Taylor acoustic with perfect tone, pickups and internal mic (I forget the model); having that one stolen nearly killed me - my dog took one look at my face when I came home and started howling to try to sing me into peace - and I love this Godin MORE.
Could I wish it had more, to make it a perfect 10? Yes. Better guts, for starters; maybe DiMarzio pots. Brass jack plate set in the top instead of the side. Heavier woods... Let's say a composite of all my favorites for the body (maybe flamed maple or black walnut core, vermillion or purpleheart top & back). A composite maple/purpleheart or walnut/vermillion neck that goes all the way through the body and has the strings run through it below the bridge. An ebony fretboard. Brass tailpiece and nut. Chrome tuners, knobs and switch-plate. Finally, make the body slightly bigger to accommodate a third pickup, keep the neck and middle pups P90s but add a Humbucker at the bridge, and a 6-way chrome selector (like an L6S) with as much variation between each voice as the 3-way now has! Other than that, keep it as is. But that's my dream guitar, and if I could get that then I wouldn't have to want that Les Paul. The Godin LG is not my dream axe, but it could very well be the guitar on which my dream axes will be based for a long time. // 9