We’re living in a golden age of retro guitars – a period when you can barely turn around without tripping over some cool, vintage-styled plank. Granted, the retro fad has become a bit cliché. But who cares? An avalanche of rose-tinted guitars sure beats the pointy, heavy-metal binge of the ’80s or the bottomless pit of Strat copies we suffered in the ’90s! In that light, let’s have a look at two “oldies” from Godin.
The 5th Avenue CW Kingpin II is a cutaway variation on the popular 5th Avenue archtops. Beyond the cutaway, Godin added two P-90 pickups to conjure a guitar that evokes the vintage jazzboxes of the post-war era (before Seth Lover’s humbucking pickup irrevocably altered the guitar landscape in 1957). The Kingpin II has a top, back, and sides made of Canadian wild cherry – an unusual guitar wood, but functional. Its neck is maple with a rosewood fingerboard shaped with a 16” radius. The guitar has a 24.84” scale – a hair longer than a Les Paul. The suitably simple electronics include the two P-90s, a master volume and tone, and a three-way toggle. There’s also an adjustable Tusq bridge by GraphTech.
The Kingpin II works as an acoustic or electric guitar, so it’s handy for practicing alone or in a live-band situation. Still, the guitar projects reasonably well unplugged. The neck also feels more like an acoustic, perhaps due to the unbound fingerboard, and is also quite slim and easy to play – unlike post-war archtops with necks like baseball bats. Plugged in, the Kingpin has a nice array of tones, from warm and jazzy to twangy and funky. Stylistically, you can cover a lot of ground with this guitar – pretty much anything you can think of minus high-volume rock. But rockabilly, roots rock, alt-country, blues, modern rock, and jazz inflections galore can be conjured up on this guitar. While the mid-price archtop market is fairly crowded right now, the clever addition of P-90s clearly puts the Godin 5th Avenue CW Kingpin II in a different light. Also, the guitar comes in Godin’s “thermally regulated instrument case” (TRIC), which is lightweight and durable.
Richmond is a sub-brand of Godin, and specializes in British Invasion-styled axes like the Belmont, which came out a few years ago. The Dorchester is their latest, and it’s another 45-year trip back in time to the days of Beatles haircuts, garage bands, and cheapo Italian, Japanese, and German axes. This, however, is a well-crafted axe that’s made in Canada. Finished in a orange-y Cherry Burst reminiscent of vintage Rickenbackers (it also comes in black), the Dorchester has a chambered maple body with poplar wings. Its 251/2”, rock-maple, two-piece neck is fitted with either an “Ergocut” rosewood or maple fingerboard that is beveled on the sides for a worn-in, comfortable feel. Hardware includes a chrome roller bridge with fixed tailpiece and some very hip-looking Lace Alumitone humbuckers – the neck pickup also has a sexy slant to it, adding to the ’60s hipster allure of the Dorchester.
Running through a Mack tube amp and a Line 6 digital rig, the Dorchester exuded a snappy, twangy sound that seemed perfect for anything from surf to a Fab Four medley. The unique four-position pickup selector is another interesting twist and brought up more twangy tones. The neck position, however, wires the pickups in series for a fatter, beefier tone. Overall, the guitar sounds great, especially for clean or slightly gritty material; even molten overdrive sounds are on the money. Its 21-fret neck is perfectly shred-fast, but doesn’t have much personality – it’s the standard, rosewood-on-maple neck you see on hundreds of guitars these days. Far more impressive is the Dorchester’s angular body design and those cool Alumitone pickups. Paired with some pointy-toed Italian boots and a Farfisa organ, the Dorchester will rock the roof off.
Godin 5th Avenue CW Kingpin II, Richmond Dorchester
Price: $1,195 (5th Avenue Kingpin II), $1,250 (Dorchester)
This article originally appeared in VG May 2010 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.