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Anything prior to  mid 1965, is considered the golden era for Fender Guitars – Yet from 1954 through to 1965 Leo had undertaken many changes to the Strat, almost on a yearly basis – Some more subtle than others – By the time we get to late 1959 and the introduction of a rosewood fingerboard, then two significant  changes after this date took – A) mid 62 and the introduction of a lam rosewood fingerboard replacing the slab board – B) 1964, the introduction of the transition logo – Granted various tweaks took place regarding the pick-ups – No such tweaks make any year better than another, but it does make them marginally different, for whatever reason – As part of the 2018 Collection, then the Custom Shop team pay homage to this period with the release of the Fender Custom Shop ’64’ Journeyman Relic Strat, with a thin nitro, lightly aged, faded fiesta red finish, that looks ultra cool – Highly spec’d and fully loaded with soul and expression, that you’ll instantly become aware of from the first moment you play a big open E chord, unplugged, through to the first time you hook it up to your amp – To a degree a vintage Strat is a vintage Strat, yet the finer detail of the sound varies – The Strat’s from the mid 60’s period are sprightly, alive and somehow more transparent with less muscle in the mid range, that helps to emphasis big lows and sparkling clear highs – SRV’s Lenny and Jimi’s black Strat (allegedly a favourite that he recorded Hey Joe on) are 2 such Strats from this period

Journeyman Relic Finish :-  I fully appreciate that not all guitar players buy into the seriously aged vibe that you’ll find on many  Custom Shop Strats, so with that in mind, a Journeyman nitro finish takes more of a  lightly aged approach, that some might say is more authentic – The ultra cool faded fiesta red finish possesses a worn and faded character, but not abused  – You’ll find no shortage of lacquer checking , yet overall it receives far less dings and dints, with very little in the way of a worn finish that reveals the alder body – Aged, but not abused, might be a fair remark, therefore the Journeyman finish is a far more subtle approach to finding a Strat with some played in character – Hence you can  buy it and play it, without having to give it the kids gloves treatment, then getting upset regarding any nicks and grazes that it will inevitably acquire – It is generally accepted that a thin base coat and finish allows the guitar to ‘breathe’ so as to maximise the guitars natural vibrant character and this is a big plus factor of the aged approach – The ‘dirty/worn’ character can be found on the maple neck, so it feels silky smooth and played in from day one

Feel/playing performance :-  Whatever magic is in this Strat regarding the playing experience can’t be seen – You feel it – The ’63’ Large C profile instantly feels comfortable, somehow familiar and very much old school from the vintage era, with an extra ounce of meat on it – Take the classic 60’s C profile and add a gnats whisker of meat and this is the result – It can’t be considered fat, but it possesses a touch more meat than the regular 60’s C profile  – Spec’d with a thin honey tint nitro finish, that has been cut back for that instant ‘played in from day one’ vibe, along with the ‘dirty/worn’ character – To further enhance a slick playing performance, you’ll find a set of narrow/jumbo 6105 frets, along with a 9.5″ fingerboard radius – You can still dig in and attack those big pentatonic blues bends, but equally a slick playing actions awaits without any choking out – All in all, such modern tweaks, allow for a slick and user friendly playing experience

Tonal character :- This is pure lush, with a crushed velvet smooth character that glistens with transparent mids that help to emphasis the sparkling crisp highs, big warm lows – These are the pick-ups that Fender ran with during the mid 60’s period, with less output and became the hallmark of the  SRV Lenny Strat and the 66 Strat of Hendrix – So much character, which is all about tonal quality and not power, with all 3 pick-ups measuring just above or below 5.5K – You’ll still experience the snap and attack that a good Strat is renowned for but this delivers it in a luxurious way – Even before you plug this Strat into your favourite amp, the unplugged experience will confirm that it rings – As I often quote, ‘it don’t mean  a thing if it ain’t got that ring’ – So if it sounds like a wet cardboard box, then pass on it – This Strat rings with body and clarity – Therefore only a quick test drive will reveal that it is loaded with soul and expression that shows a melodic character with a bell like chime – Some Strats might possess more bite and balls, couple with a hint of attitude – This Strat is pure lush and as such more of a tender character – On hi-gain amp settings and the Strat on 10, you’ll find it possesses a hint of fizz about it, so just roll off the volume pot just a touch, until you find that luxurious sweet spot, that still retains all the Strat’s goodness – Let this now be your base camp and then go back to 10 when you want that  extra touch of energy – Remember tone pot on this Strat for the bridge pick-up allows you to gently roll off any excessive highs, as required

To me the guitar shows its true colours when you show it an amp with more of a blues/rock overdriven amp setting – Again use the Strat’s volume pot to find the sweet spot and allow this voice to be your base camp – As such, for chilled out licks and chords you’ll find it a lot cleaner – As such when you require a touch more gain, just wind the Strat back towards 10 and if you require a touch more, then just hit the switch on a good boost/overdrive pedal – This approach ensures shed loads of emotion and expression – As I mentioned before,  Strats from this period were popular with SRV (Lenny) and Jimi (Monterey black Strat), but players like John Mayer love similar pick-ups as part of his ‘big dipper’ scooped tone – I can go on and on and use a whole load of descriptive words to describe this guitars tonal character, but LUSH sums it up in one word – Yet add EXPRESSION for a longer and valid description – Infectious ‘out of phase’ voice from position 2 + 4 of the 5 way switch – More depth on the middle/neck combination and more crisp on the middle/bridge setting

Full spec and details for this Fender Custom Shop 64 Journeyman Relic Strat :- 

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Every guitar in stock at Guitars4You has been personally selected, inspected and approved by me, with particular attention paid to the set-up and playing performance – Every sale, phone call, mail order transaction or e-mail is handled my me – Mark Hopkin, the owner, Managing Director, cleaner and coffee maker (Jo, my wife helps with the coffee) – A journey, now in excess of 40 years, has fuelled my knowledge, experience, love, devotion and passion for exceptionally fine guitars – This reflects in every aspect of our business.

I have no desire to run an Amazon style 'click to buy' guitar shop, that lacks any soul or passion, or indeed to fill a showroom with a selection of dirty, shop soiled or dusty guitars that are in need of a set-up.

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