DAVID BOWIE’S TIN MACHINE ERUPTED on the late-’80s scene like a new Yardbirds, with Soupy Sales’ kids Hunt and Tony playing Jim McCarty and Paul Samwell-Smith to Bowie’s Keith Relf. This left big shoes for guitarist Reeves Gabrels to fill, but with his combination of chops amped up to ’80s levels via Berklee study, and sonic adventurousness, he aptly recalled the revolution wrought by former ’birds Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.
Gabrels went on to be Bowie’s righthand man throughout much of the ’90s, adding screaming riffs and sonic madness to the albums Outside and Earthling. On his own records—and in collaboration with the likes of slide whiz David Tronzo or the Cure’s Robert Smith— Gabrels continued his journey into a musical land where metal meets experimental. In 2010, Reverend Guitars introduced a Reeves Gabrels Signature Model tailored to Gabrels’ needs and tastes.
The Gabrels Signature Model is a handsome instrument—the Reverend shape is one of those modern contours that totally works on its own merits, without having to refer to classic instruments of the past. Binding around the flame maple top and along the sides of the rosewood fretboard adds a bit of elegance to this otherwise no-nonsense guitar. Simple dots and Gabrels’ signature inconspicuously located on the back of the headstock demonstrate a modesty that would be welcome on more artist models, and the satin finish on the maple neck signals a working man’s instrument rather than a rec-room collectible.
The solid korina body and maple top combine with solid Reverend construction to create an acoustic tone with a quick attack and plenty of ring. The medium oval neck with its 12" radius should feel comfy in large or small hands, and though the squared-off jumbo frets do not invite sliding into notes, they make for super easy bending.
I plugged the Gabrels Signature Model into Orange Tiny Terror and Egnater Rebel 30 heads (both running through a custom bottom fitted with a 12" Eminence Texas Heat speaker), as well as a Reverend Hellhound combo. The Reverend humbucker bridge pickup and the DiMarzio Fast Track 1 neck pickup are well matched and ready to rock. These pickups are not particularly designed for clean sparkle, but the maple top keeps them from sounding muddy. Even with the bass rolled off—courtesy of the ingenious Bass Contour control—the best you will get out of the neck pickup is a P-90- style bite, and more of a PAF humbucker sound from the bridge humbucker.
Wherever the Contour knob was set, these pickups loved driving the Orange and Egnater amps, as well as a variety of distortion devices. An Electro-Harmonix Germanium Big Muff demonstrated how this guitar might sound through a brighter, high-gain amp, with satisfying results: the neck pickup became crisp and biting, yet remained full, while the bridge pickup demonstrated an expressive vocal honk. Through such a rig, the fact that the high end is diminished when the Volume control is rolled down is probably not an issue. Opening up the tonal spectrum even further, a push/pull function on the Tone knob throws the two pickups out of phase for some funky rhythms or Peter Green-style solos.
Like its namesake, the Reeves Gabrels Signature Model has its own sound, but is far from a one-trick pony. Within the parameters of harder rock, metal, and distortion-based experimental music, it offers a wide range of captivating tones. If your musical tastes fall somewhere inside those boundaries, this guitar might be just the ticket to help you develop a voice of your own.
CONTACT Reverend Musical Instruments, (734) 953- 6984; reverendguitars.com
REEVES GABRELS SIGNATURE
PRICE $1,199 retail/street price N/A
FRETBOARD Bound rosewood with dot inlay
FRETS 22 jumbo
SCALE 25 1/2”
BODY Solid korina with flame maple top.
PICKUP Reverend humbucker (bridge), DiMarzio Fast Track 1 (neck).
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, Bass Contour, push/pull phase switch
BRIDGE Tune-o-Matic w/stop tailpiece
TUNERS Reverend Pin-Lock
COLOR Translucent Red (also available in Translucent Black)
KUDOS Resonant tone. Excellent playability. Versatile within rock genres.