The four-bolt neck joint.
THE CORVUS II WAS ONE OF A TRIO OF guitars Gibson introduced in 1983 called, “The American Series.” The American Challenger and Invader were Les Paul-shaped knock-offs with flat tops, boring paint jobs, bolt-on necks, and nondescript features. But wait! They might have been onto something with the dual-humbucker Corvus, which was also offered in three single-coil and sing/hum pickup configurations, as well as many bright colors. (Mine is the more common gray version.) The original retail price for each American Series model was $399.
The Corvus II has a bolt-on neck, which is atypical for Gibson, but it’s the body shape that truly makes this model a weirdo. It looks like a cross between a can opener and a hungry whale. I discovered that a star constellation from Greek mythology was named “Corvus,” but as its shape depicted a crow sitting on a snake, it’s hardly the model for this design. So what inspired Gibson to go with this strange body shape? We may never know…
PLAYABILITY & SOUND
This is a really good guitar. The neck feels like a Les Paul Standard with 22 nicely polished medium-jumbo frets and easy access to high notes. It’s light, balanced, comfy to wear, and weighs in at just under seven pounds. The plastic-sealed humbuckers have a very rich sound in the combined position, and the neck and bridge settings are slightly reminiscent of out-of- phase P90s. The bridge is a combo job with a one-piece stop tailpiece and brass Tune-omatic style saddles. The only thing GIbson cut corners on—other than cutting pie-shaped corners out of the body for no apparent reason— is that there is only a Master Tone knob, rather than dedicated Tone controls for each pickup.
Just about any 30-year-old, American-made Gibson typically fetches two to three grand and up, but you can still snag a Corvus for well under a G-note.
WHY IT RULES
This thing is as ugly as they come, and it would take a bold person to strap on a Corvus II. But, then again, some of my favorite intrepid explorers— Annie Clark, Jack White, Martin Gore, Ian Curtis, and Brian Jones, just to name a few— have made loud and compelling musical (and visual) statements with whack job guitars. This is a great playing and sounding guitar that is still rather easily attainable.