Instrument Reviews
bullet Terry Bales
bullet Eccleshall
bullet Fender
bullet Godin
bullet Linke
bullet Jonathan Mann
bullet McHugh
bullet Oldtown
bullet Pentasystem
bullet Risa
bullet Schwab
bullet J.L. Smith 1
bullet J.L. Smith 2
bullet Weber
CD & Book Reviews
bullet Carbon Leaf: Echo Echo
bullet Richard Congress: Blues Mandolin Man: The Life and Music of Yank Rachell
bullet Crazy Rhythm: RU•Crazy
bullet Rich DelGrosso: Get Your Nose Outta My Bizness
bullet Billy Flynn: Chicago Blues Mandolin
bullet Maestro Alex Gregory: 12 Jokes for Heavy Metal Mandolin
bullet Maestro Alex Gregory's Penta Orchestra: Another Millennium?
bullet Bruce Harvie: Mandolin Graffiti
bullet Andrew Hendryx:
13th Street Repose,
Still Life with Mandolin and Guitar
bullet Eva Holbrook: The Very Last Dream
bullet Don Julin & Ron Getz: Mr. Natural
bullet John Kruth: The Cherry Electric
bullet Michael Lampert: Jacaranda
bullet Michael Lampert: Blue Gardenia
bullet Mori Stylez: Rules for Rotation
bullet The Suspenders: Suspended Alive at the Spider
bullet Trout: Metalgrass

Review of Pentasystem Instruments
In summer 2001 I visited Alex Gregory and tried out the prototypes of most of his Pentasystem instruments. I have to admit I was skeptical. I had heard Alex's recordings, so I knew he was a great player—but could his instruments really be that much better than the others I've seen?
     Well, yes, they can. If you've tried a few 5-string electric mandolins, you probably know about "floppy C string disease," where the low string won't stay in tune or deliver acceptable tone because the scale's too short to achieve proper tension. Alex has licked this problem with an ingenious, patented headstock design—the Pentasystem headstock is progressively recessed so that the angle of the string behind the nut gets steeper as you go down from the highest string to the lowest.
     I don't think I've ever tried an electric mandolin with better action. It takes such little effort to finger a note that it's almost as if the frets aren't even there. Full half-note bends are no problem, and I could get the maximum return on whatever speed and dexterity I might have.
     The instruments sound fantastic, look great, stay in tune, and sustain forever. Alex had three or four vintage Marshall stacks in the garage, and he let me run a Pentaula through one of them. I became a rock'n'roller in an instant. The Pentaula has a 14-1/8" scale, but thanks to this wicked headstock design it's fully playable when tuned AEBF#C#—starting on a low A, a step above octave mandolin tuning! The Seymour Duncan pickups scream, the cutaway design lets you get at all 29 frets, and the response is strong and consistent across the instrument’s entire range.
     The available finishes and appointments are definitely part of a rock'n'roll aesthetic. But after all, Alex's goal was to convince electric guitarists that their instrument was obsolete, so his instruments had to appeal to them. Sadly, Pentasystem, like many great ideas, never quite caught on. Fewer than 100 instruments were made, but they're out there if you want to try to track one down.