Review Date: Friday 8th of March 2013 02:03:45 PM Last Updated: Thursday 1st of January 1970 01:00:00 AM Reviewed By: Marcus Leadley
New Eastwood with off the wall design and a connection to Nirvana's Kurt Cobain
Raise a glass to Eastwood, the fearless reissue merchants for whom no guitar of the past is seemingly deemed unworthy of resurrecting. This month we’re dusting off the coily white lead and cranking the reverb to sample a bluesy semi-acoustic and a punky, grunge-friendly solidbody.
This is one crazy guitar: a copy of a Japanese ’70s Univox copy of a Mosrite. It’s likely this guitar would never have been reissued had it not been toted by Kurt Cobain in the video for Heart Shaped Box (though we’re not sure he ever used one live or in the studio).
The original Univox represented the long love affair between the Japanese and the Ventures, and many Mosrite copies were made for the domestic market. The Univox evolved through four models (phases), gradually becoming less and less Ventures-like.
The late ’70 Phase 4 sees a wraparound hardtail bridge replacing the Jazzmaster-style vibrato/bridge, and humbuckers drafted in to replace single coils. Whatever the Cobain connection, the guitar became a potential grunge monster at this point.
Hi-Flyers were hardly accurate copies and this Eastwood isn’t in the business of trying to perfect the imperfect. The body is very thin; an original Mosrite weights over 8lbs, the Phase 4 tips the scales at 6lbs. The neck pocket was a notoriously weak point, and while we’re not about test this sample to destruction, best not chuck it about.
The body shape, German carve and slanted neck pickup summon up a surfy feel as well as spirits of both Kurt and Johnny Ramone. Mosrites had rosewood boards with a zero fret; this has a maple board and no zero fret, plus a gloss fingerboard and a satin finish neck – very unusual – as well as a 24.75" scale which gives a slightly loose feel.
These humbuckers are hot, but not so overwound the guitar won’t do clean. The bridge pickup is good for chords and picking, the twin-pickup setting has a richer, more rounded tone, and the neck unit has a warm rhythm sound. The wraparound bridge is a solid bit of kit so the body resonates to its max, and tuning is rock-steady.
Wind up the amp and it becomes clear that the Phase 4 is a secret weapon. Grunge, garage punk, ’70s prog, classic rock… the Hi-Flyer gives brilliantly. Notes are clear and musical even when you stack two distortion pedals for sonic mayhem. The sustain is excellent and there’s plenty of pick-edge attack for solos.
First-position chords are delivered with a positive thump, and even simple barre chords sound fresh to the ears. This clarity is really valuable for other effects, and the Phase 4 happily hops decades and genres as you clatter through your pedalboard’s combinations.
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