Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The PRS Electric Guitar Book: 30th Anniversary Edition - A Grand Look At A Classic Brand

Paul Reed Smith is the youngest of the classic guitar manufacturers, but he's always been at the top of the class when it's come to quality and innovation. When I heard this book was coming to my desk, I half wondered if, given the relatively unchanged look the line has maintained, there was really enough to hold my attention in a retrospective. I shouldn't have worried - the book is as beautiful as you would imagine, but the story is also fascinating. Your mind will boggle when you realize just how much innovation and passion has went into the engineering side of making PRS one of the best of the best.

Dave Burrluck is one of the finest journalists remaining in the world of guitar magazines - he's currently Gear Reviews Editor of Guitarist, Total Guitar, and Guitarist Presents Acoustic magazines, he's written several excellent books, and he's been top shelf for a great many years. He's just released his latest edition of The PRS Electric Guitar Book (earlier editions - 1999, 2002, 2007) along with Hal Leonard's Backbeat Books. He's the perfect guy for the gig, and he's written the perfect book for the brand.

I'm going to go into a bit of detail explaining just how cool this book is, and why it is a 'must have' for any serious guitar enthusiast, but first I must get my one criticism off my chest. I'm a bit miffed that the first thing I wanted to do upon opening the book was to take a pair of scissors to the first page. The reason for the scissors is to remove the repulsive picture of Dave Navarro that takes up the page. I've nothing against Navarro, he's a great player, and while he is playing a PRS in the photograph, the guitar itself is a rather out of focus, and nondescript model. What the eye is drawn to, and what is perfectly in focus is Dave's left nipple and nipple piercing. I'm no prude, but I'll be damned if that's the first thing I want to see when I open this book. Page removed. Now, on to the good, good, good stuff.

The art in this book is remarkable - the photographs are stunning. They are crystal clear and in pretty high resolution, and even the oldest models (Paul's first build from 1975, and some very early pre-name on the headstock models) are represented in fine, fine detail. PRS has always been a company known for the beauty of their instruments, and every make, model, and year is well represented - there are also loads of one offs and custom builds, like their first double-neck, built by apprentice John Ingram that was sold to Journey main-man Neal Schon. The Private Stocks are here, the Artist models, Signature models, neither of which are related to artist models such as the Carlos Santana, the Mark Tremonti, and many other artist specific signature models. I'm going to leave it to you to buy the book and learn the differences, and ins and outs of these details - it's fascinating reading.

Speaking of reading, Burrluck has done a spectacular job of relating the history, the technical details, and the stories that include the famous decision to go into the Singlecut business in 2000, and their groundbreaking work with Ted McCarty. It's great to actually read and absorb just how much love, passion, and nose to the grindstone engineering has gone, and still goes into this prestigious line, and with this edition we also have the history, story, and details of the company's lower cost line of Asian built SE instruments.

Along with the great art, and excellent storytelling goes a thirty-two page section at the back that details the details of every model the company has ever released, and this alone makes this edition an absolute essential for every guitar shop on the planet. It's often not easy to identify exactly which model you're looking at if you don't have the details well at hand. This will allow anyone with a modicum of knowledge to differentiate between a CE, SE, Custom, Standard, Artist, McCarty, EG, Mira, SC, Singlecut, Starla, or any of the other myriad models PRS has offered over the years.

The PRS Electric Guitar Book: 30th Anniversary Edition is as state of the art as the guitars themselves. Burrluck and Backbeat have put out an essential next edition of a book that just keeps getting better with age. My experience with PRS is a long and winding road - what stands out in my mind most of all, more than the sheer and absolute beauty of these instrument, even more than their incredible record for technological and design innovation is this. In all the years I worked for some of the largest musical instrument retail company in the world, I never remember sending back a PRS to the factory out of the box - out of every guitar I can remember, and there were literally thousands, I can never remember having to send a PRS guitar back to the factory for any reason. They were always built right. This book? It's built right. I can even overlook that picture of Navarro's nipple.      

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