Hey, did you ever see that Italian movie from the ’60s? I think it was Fellini, or maybe Antonioni. There’s this cute girl (or was it a cute boy?) zipping around Rome on a tomato-red Vespa, with a matching guitar slung across his/her back. (Without a case, naturally.) Anyway, I’m pretty sure that’s where I saw the Rivolta Combinata for the first time.
What? It’s a new guitar? Oops. And why was I thinking Italy? Well, the name, obviously. Rivolta Combinata is Italian for “revolting comb-over.” Just kidding! Rivolta means “revolt,” and combinata means “combined,” as in hybrid.
Which makes sense. The model is the latest creation from American luthier Dennis Fano, who made his name with über-hip axes that mashed up various vintage guitar designs with gleeful abandon—there’s combinata for you! And Rivolta exists thanks to a revolt of sorts against traditional guitar retailing: After selling the still-extant Fano Guitars brand, the luthier partnered with the Eastwood Custom Shop, which financed the Combinata’s development via crowd funding and pre-orders. Also, Asia-made Rivoltas are substantially less expensive than U.S.-made Novo earlier creations.
La Nuova Moda
Many of Dennis’ instruments, with their heavily distressed finishes, looked like they’d been kicking around the rec room for a decade or two. In the coolest possible sense, of course. But the glossy Rivolta finish is miles from that cargo-shorts-casual style.
If you want to look chic while promenading down Rome’s glitzy Via Veneto, this guitar would be an excellent accessory. Our review model is “pomodoro red metallic,” though Combinata also comes in handsome blue, black, and burst finishes. It can also be ordered in a Deluxe version with a Deusenberg Les Trem II vibrato.
But is the Combinata more than a fashion statement? Abso-frickin’-lutely!
As always, it’s fun to pick out Fano’s vintage reference points. Rickenbacker’s Combo 800 and 600 solidbodies are the predominant flavor here—evident in the body shape, headstock, and the German carve (the routed-out indentation near the top’s perimeter) much as on the old Fano RB6. But wait! The two P-90s and a wraparound bridge hail from Gibsonland, the super-sized position markers hint at Hofner and Roger-brand solidbodies, and the offbeat vinyl pickguard adds a touch of Mosrite Ventures model.
The workmanship is terrific. The finish and binding are flaw-free. The expertly installed vintage-flavored frets provide low, comfy action, while the neck has a substantial, old-school C profile. It’s easy to haul ass on the speedy neck, yet you can still dig into notes and shape them with precision. The Combinata arrived with an excellent factory setup and played great right out of its included hardshell case.
The Bright Stuff
Strummed unplugged, the Combinata has airy, energetic zing and sweetly harmonious sustain. It feels alive and responsive. The P-90s excel at telegraphing those qualities. Though as with all vintage-style P-90s, you’ll encounter some single-coil hum. In no manner is the Combinata overly bright. Its registers balance beautifully. But there’s a strong sense of treble headroom as the highs sparkle and sing. If jangle is your angle, you’ll be happy here.
But the Combinata isn’t strictly a clean machine. Even when tones are heavily overdriven, you still perceive that buoyant, airy quality. Chunky power chords are focused and sonorous, reinforced by more-than-ample sustain. We’re not talking metal-type tones (shocker, I know) so much as ringing sonorities attractively aerated with lower-midrange nooks and crannies.
The Combinata is a great power-pop guitar, though that description gives short shrift to the instrument’s versatility. It can cough up funky blues/roots/R&B colors, and even attractive jazz tones with the tone control pulled back. But no matter the setting, Combinata sounds … happy, I guess? Unicorns and rainbows abound, even when I play gloomy minor-key stuff.
The VerdictRivolta Guitars is off to a splendid start with the Combinata. It’s a festive salad of Rickenbacker, Gibson, and Mosrite influences, vibrant and vibey in both sight and sound. The workmanship is excellent for its price range. Tones are attractive and effervescent at all control settings and gain levels.
Look, I’ve had the Combinata around for a week or so. It brightens every room it enters. It’s hard to walk by without picking it up. Glancing up at it now as I type makes me want to blow off this review and just play. This guitar made me smile at a time when smiles were in short supply. I enjoyed every dose of this bright red happy pill.
Watch the Review Demo: