Jerry's Kid: G&L Tribute Rampage Jerry Cantrell Signature

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Guitar World Magazine, October 2009

When George Fullertonand Leo Fender established G&L Musical Instruments in 1980 (G&L stands for George & Leo), Leo stated that his goal was to make "the best instruments I have ever made" - quite an ambition for the man behind such legendary instruments as the Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster. G&L produced not only refined versions of the guitars developed for Leo's other company but also bold new models, like the radical pointy shaped Interceptor and the fun-and-funky SC-2.

One of the coolest early G&L guitars was the Rampage, which was also one of the first commercially produced models to capitalize on Eddie Van Halen's stripped-down "Frankenstein" design. It featured a single humbucker mounted near the bridge, a solitary volume control and a locking Kahler tremolo. G&L made only a few hundred Rampage guitars between 1984 and 1988, the year in which it discontinued the model.

Thanks to devoted Rampage player Jerry Cantrell, the model has enjoyed cult status ever since Alice in Chains stepped into the spotlight in 1990. With the exception of a limited run of 70 models in 2000, Rampage guitars have been very hard to come by for many years. G&L finally succumbed to demand this summer by introducing the highly affordable Tribute Rampage Jerry Cantrell Signature model as well as a U.S.-built version that costs about three times as much.

FEATURES

Although some Rampage guitars built in the Eighties feature bodies made of ash or poplar, the Tribute Rampage has a soft maple body, which matches the materials used for Jerry's original guitar. The body shape remains identical to the previous version as well, resembling that of a Strat but with a narrower waist, rounder lower bout and deeper waist contour, and the input jack is conveniently mounted on the side.

The 25 1/2 inch scale neck is carved to a thin, flat profile, but thanks to its quarter-sawn hard-rock maple construction and ebony fingerboard (an upgrade to the original version's rosewood or maple fingerboards) it's exceptionally solid and stable. The 13 3/4 inch radius also provides a fast, flat feel, while 22 tall medium-profile frets offer plenty of heavy metal to dig into when bending notes, fretting power chords or flying into hyperspeed.

Despite its low price, the Tribute Rampage has several features rarely found on guitars that cost under $1,000. The hardware is finished in classy black chrome, which perfectly complements the black or ivory finish options. The pickup is custom wound to Jerry's specifications and is constructed with Alnico V magnets. Instead of the ubiquitous licensed Floyd Rose tremolo system, the Tribute Rampage is equipped with a recessed Kahler 4300 X-Trem tremolo and Floyd Rose locking nut. Even the tuners offer above-average specs, providing an 18:1 ratio for dead-accurate tuning.

PERFORMANCE

Even with it's barebones single humbucker plus volume control design, the Tribute Rampage is a very versatile guitar that provides tones ideal for most styles of hard rock. Because the pickup "floats" in a mounting ring (a la vintage Gibson), its tone is warmer and mellower than it would be if it were mounted directly to the body, and this in turn helps tame some of the brightness normally associated with maple body materials. String attack is crisp and articulate, and frequency response is well balanced, with high notes sharing almost equal "weight" with bass notes, allowing players to shift from low-end riffs to squealing leads without needing to compensate with a volume pedal or compressor. For a maple body guitar with an ebony neck, the Rampage has a tone that's full, rich and resonant, with none of the twangy bass or icepick treble you'd expect.

With its flat radius, flat and thin neck profile, and big, meaty frets, the Rampage plays like a shredder's fantasy. The ebony fingerboard is so smoothly polished that it almost feels like it's coated with a glossy finish. The volume control is perfectly situated for performing swells and volume adjustments with the right-hand pinkie, but it can get in the way when executing overly aggressive downstrokes. Fortunately, the volume pot delivers more than ample resistance so you don't have to worry about inadvertently cutting off the volume.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The G&L Tribute Rampage offers exceptional value for guitarists seeking an ax in the under-$1,000 price range. While its features may be as stripped down as it gets, the quality of the components and construction is hard to beat.