The Metropolitans:
 Westport, Tanglewood, and Glendale

Blast From The Past

A review of the Metropolitan Tanglewood Custom Electric-Acoustic

By Baker Rorick, as found in January 1998 Guitar Shop Magazine

"And now for something completely different…the Metropolitan Tanglewood. The Tanglewood Custom is styled after top-of-the-line National Glenwood map-shaped guitars of the early '60s, which had fiberglass bodies, clunky necks with plastic inlays and horrible frets, weak pickups, a bad crystal bridge pickup, and slipshod workmanship. Cheese aficionados and collectors pay big bucks for Glenwoods – as much as $2500 – even though many are suitable only for decoration. The Metropolitan Tanglewood reproduces that classic look, even the Gumby headstock faced with white plastic, but more than improves on the original in every way.

The Tanglewood Custom is handmade in Houston with plenty of fine workmanship and attention to detail. The body is made of African fakimba wood, with a gorgeous, hand rubbed lacquer finish, and polished chrome molding around the edge to mimic the plastic grommet of the old "Res-O-Glas" Nationals. The "scooped" or "German" cut on the front and back of the body creates a raised top and back that entails plenty of extra hand-work in body sanding and finish buffing stages.

The one-piece mahogany neck, set and glued to the body, has a rosewood fingerboard, white binding, and abalone and mother of pearl butterfly pattern inlays with no slop or filler. Scale length is 24 ¾", with 22 jumbo frets, and width at the nut is 1 ¾". The neck has a comfortable Les Paul shape and feel, with impeccable fret work allowing low, fast action with no buzz and no choking out on big bends. The neck joins the body at the 14th fret and I found the blocky body end limits easy access to higher frets. Changing hand position to get up there slowed me down, and bending strings above the 17th fret was difficult for me.

For electronics, all Metropolitans come with a 3-way pickup selector, and individual volume and tone controls for a pair of
Rio Grande humbucking pickups: a Texas HB model at the neck and hotter Barbeque Bucker at the bridge. Custom models have coil-splits on push-pull volume knobs. Our test guitar was a Custom Acoustic model with an added L.R. Baggs ribbon transducer piezo system installed in the base of a compensated aluminum bridge, with its own volume and tone controls (for a total of 6 knobs), plus an optional Bigsby Vibrato.

Running through a blackface Fender Deluxe Reverb amp, the Rio Grande pickups were full, fat and crunchy, with plenty of sustain. Engaging the coil-splitters gave thinner tones, with very little decrease in output, that were especially suitable for Chet Atkins action with the Bigsby. I could get that great Gretsch sound, edgier Rickenbacker jangle, and classic Les Paul power and punch, all from one guitar. I then tried the bridge transducer through a Trace Acoustic TA50R. A stereo plug with Y-chord comes with the Custom Acoustic, for separating humbucker and piezo outputs to equalize levels through different amps. The piezo won't work without it, and be sure not to plug into the wrong outputs and run the 'buckers through the acoustic amp! The Baggs has a fair amount of scratchy, high end "piezo pluck" when cranked, but not as much as many other piezo systems, and the piezo's tone control seemed to add bass more than roll off treble. There was not as much low-end presence as I could wish for, even after pushing the bass on the Trace's EQ, but after a little fiddling I managed to find a very satisfying acoustic guitar tone. The Bigsby became unusable with the piezo on, as the piezo's sensitivity picked up all the vibrato's vibrations. Mea Culpa, though, for insisting on those two options on one guitar. But it's still very versatile, with quite a range of tonal possibilities.

The Tanglewood's body shape and size feel awkward when sitting, but it's just fine when strapped on: well balanced, comfortable, and not too heavy. This ain't an axe to sit around at home with anyway. It's a great show guitar, great for flashy blues, swing or rockabilly. It's like a Les Paul in cool-rockin' daddy fancy dress, and Metropolitan players should look way sharp onstage. Rock On!"


Metropolitan Guitars
3526 East T.C. Jester Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77018
(713) 957-0470
Fax: (713) 957-3316

See these other guitar-related sites: