The Weigh-Up: Jackson MJ Series Rhoads RRT (Gear Review)
One of the true rock and roll tragedies, Randall William ‘Randy’ Rhoads led a short, yet highly influential life. The Santa Monica-born axeman was handpicked to fill the guitarist role in the new Ozzy Osbourne solo group, and went on to play an enormous role in the career of the former Black Sabbath frontman. His high-octane guitar playing brought Osbourne’s sound into the 80s; muscular, driving hard rock with enough of a melodic edge to get played on any major rock radio station. While Rhoads knew every trick in the-then exploding shred scene, his playing also took heavy influence from the classical world, placing him at the front of the also burgeoning neo-classical metal movement.
Sadly passing away before his namesake Jackson Rhoads went into production, Randy Rhoads closely created the prototypes with Grover Jackson and his team during his lifetime, road testing them up until his untimely death on March 19th 1982. With the first models being made available to the public later that year, the eye-grabbing asymmetrical ‘shark-fin’ shaped body grabbed hard rock and metal players alike, with a chance of inheriting some of the great man’s ability and tone as an added bonus. 1980s metal players from across the field like Kirk Hammett, Vinnie Vincent and Scott Ian all adopted the Rhoads V into their arsenals, while the model continued to resonate into the new millennium with a plethora of different players. The likes of the late Alexi Laiho, Corey Beaulieu (Trivium), Christian Andreu (Gojira) – even recently Weezer’s River Cuomo – have all become synonymous with the Jackson Rhoads.
The Jackson MJ Series Rhoads RRT is the next incarnation of this legendary model. The MJ series from Jackson sees the brand returning to the days of the early 90s, when all of their import guitars were created exclusively in Japan with all the mod-cons – and their reputation still speaks loudly to this day. Aiming at reforging this level of prestige and quality, Jackson’s new made-in-Japan Rhoads is the perfect frontrunner for this new line of guitars.
Everything about the Jackson MJ Rhoads screams high end, with all the stock parts at the top of the line; Seymour Duncan pickups, Gotoh locking tuners, Luminlay side-dots and a Graph Tech nut. Of course, this would all mean for moot if it’s not checked over and set up with a caring eye – and while our expectations were lofty, Jackson has managed to beat them. The quality control is truly top of the line, perfectly set up straight from it’s specifically designed heavy duty soft case – thanks to the locking tuners it didn’t even need tuning before playing. The sheer playability of the Rhoads is amazing too. The maple neck with ebony fretboard is extremely comfortable – enough meat to grab onto, but slim and easy to get around. The combination of the radius and unparalleled upper fret access – thanks to the body shape – makes lead runs and soloing a breeze.
One of the biggest deciding factors when it comes to picking the Jackson Rhoads – regardless of the exact model – is it’s body shape. For those used to the usual single and double cutaway guitars, the change of position required to play the instrument will take a minute to get comfortable with. Randy Rhoads, the man himself, was a well-known student of classical guitar and it makes perfect sense that his Jackson guitar would be played in the same fashion as a traditional nylon strung acoustic. To the guitar’s credit, it’s perfectly and comfortably weighted during standing up – no neck dive whatsoever. The shape clearly aims it towards the rock/metal player – a serious jazz muso may turn their nose up at the visual component, but thanks to stock Seymour Duncan pickups the guitar can sonically handle anything you throw at it. The JB SH-4 in the bridge bites and snarls with modern high gain behind it – chugging powerchords sound huge – but when paired with a more period-correct, early 80s tone it really comes alive. The Jazz SH-2N in the neck position smooths things up, making it perfect for clean tones, as well as firing off lead runs and solos.
The Luminlay side dots are great and receptive to low light – they even begin to shine through on a bleak afternoon – while the tucked-away input jack keeps your lead nice and flush next to the guitar. One word of advice is to keep the microfibre cloth handy! Although the gloss black with mirror-silver hardware is both classy and metal AF, fingerprints and smudge marks get picked up quickly. As for the guitar’s pointy bits, as deadly as they are, are likely to receive as much damage as they are to dish it out if the user is not careful in a tighter practice space.
With an Australian RRP of nearly $5000, there is obviously a smaller market for this guitar; however for those wanting the creme de la creme, you cannot go wrong with Jackson MJ Series Rhoads RRT. This six-string is ready to conquer stages and recording sessions straight from the box; no further work or upgrades required.
It’s craftsmanship is the highest selling point though; with the Jackson team in Japan creating an instrument that will get the best performance out of the player humanly possible. The legacy of Randy Rhoads and his signature V continues to burn strongly thanks to Jackson.
Learn more about the Jackson MJ Series Rhoads RRT here or find one at your local dealership
Reviewed by Andrew Kapper
- 25.5” scale length
- Basswood Rhoads body
- Through-body three-piece maple neck with graphite reinforcement and gloss color matched back finish
- 12”-16” compound radius bound ebony fingerboard with pearloid sharkfin inlays and 22 jumbo frets
- Luminlay® side dots
- Seymour Duncan® JB™ SH-4 bridge and Seymour Duncan Jazz SH-2N neck humbucking pickups
- Three-position pickup toggle switch, single volume control and single tone control
- Jackson TOM-style adjustable bridge with anchored tailpiece
- Gotoh® die-cast locking tuners and Dunlop® dual-locking strap buttons
- Available in Gloss Black with Jackson pointed 6-in-line black headstock, chrome pickguard and chrome hardware
- Foam core case included