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The Blackbird draws inspiration from Fender’s blackface era (with much in common with the rare Vibroverb) and is an amazing platform for pedal-heavy rigs.

We remember 1968 as one of the most pivotal years in our history. It was a time of great change, divided opinions, and fighting in the streets. I refer, of course, to the reaction when Fender rolled out the silverface Deluxe.

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The Electroplex Rocket 35-EL dishes out a slew of vintage Brit-tones in an impressively versatile, modernized package.

Since his creative renaissance began two years ago, Electroplex head Don Morris has generated a slow but steady stream of well-regarded classic-meets-modern amplifiers. And though Morris made his mark in the estimation of many with the potent Rocket 90, his lineup is heavy on lower-powered Rockets that offer most players more versatility and tonal flavor. The most recent design to emerge from Don’s Fullerton, California, shop is the switchable 22/35-watt Rocket 35-EL, a dual EL-34 combo that delivers more aggressive, British-flavored tones at studio and rehearsal-friendly volumes.

Rockets over the Atlantic
Players loved the original 5881-driven Rocket 35 for its combination of blackface-like familiarity and such modern touches as power-output switching. With its ability to go from a Deluxe Reverb-like 22 watts to a Vibrolux Reverb-like 35 watts, the Rocket 35 was squarely in the sweet spot of most performers’ volume requirements—low enough for rehearsal or recording and loud enough for mid-size venues.

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The Gibson J-45 PureVoice Custom Limited Edition isn’t cheap, but it''s a versatile guitar that can grow and move with you through a multitude of styles and performance situations.

When Gibson introduced the J-45 in the early ’40s, the country was mired in an age of austerity—torn by the war and not yet out of the Great Depression. The guitar was designed and built to address the economic realities of the time, eschewing flash to keep the price low. But Gibson’s approach to making the guitar accessible also made it beautiful. The sunburst finish—used to conceal the multiple-piece tops made necessary by a spruce shortage—was stylish and actually looked luxurious. The dot inlays were a picture of perfect simplicity. And the mahogany back and sides conspired with the spruce top to create a bright, bassy, slightly husky voice that, serendipitously, suited the bluesy, down-home vibe of the times.

Gibson’s newest J-45, the limited-edition PureVoice Custom, isn’t exactly an entry-level economy model anymore. Alongside the J-200, it’s the essence of Gibson acoustic style and tone—the flagship of a proud line—and as such it’s a guitar many of us will dream of rather than actually own. But the J-45 PureVoice Custom evolves a classic by adding an internal, bridge plate-mounted transducer system that makes this particular J-45 a superb performance guitar without sacrificing the tone, style, and intangibles that have made J-45s objects of lust for guitar nuts and an indispensible tool for artists from Dylan to Jeff Tweedy.

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