Best Pressing Shootout: Stanley Cowell, Regeneration (Original Strata East vs. Pure Pleasure Reissue)

Last week, I had one of those moments I live for as a blogger. Listening to borrowed copies of Clifford Jordan’s Glass Bead Games, I spotted what seemed like evidence that the Pure Pleasure reissue was sourced from a needle-drop that had then been digitally manipulated to remove pops and clicks… hardly a very “analogue” procedure, as their hype sticker proclaims. It’s still a conspiracy theory at this point — I emailed Pure Pleasure, and they haven’t responded. But it seems quite plausible.

Anyway, I was naturally eager to try out another Pure Pleasure reissue to see if I could find any similar evidence. I was on the hunt for “atmospheric dropouts”!

Luckily, my two friends named Jared were able to supply me with the raw material: Friend Jared had a near mint original copy of Stanley Cowell’s Regeneration, and Neighbour Jared (also a friend!) had the PP reissue. Off to the races…

The Pressings

The original is in spectacular shape. Like all Strata East stuff, it commands a lot of cash on Discogs (this one is probably worth about $2-300). Especially these days —Covid-era jazz prices are going crazy!!

They clearly take care of their records over there at WOWI! (In an amusingly opinionated Wikipedia entry on WOWI, a radio station from Norfolk, Virginia, the author bemoans, “The good music era came to an end in 1970,” when the station switched to a progressive rock focus. Maybe they never played this disc?)

The Pure Pleasure reissue is in perfect shape. It sells new from Pure Pleasure’s website for about £30 or $50ish.

The verdict

Well, alas, no evidence that the Pure Pleasure is a needle-drop! Everything sounded “normal” to me. So let’s set the conspiracy theories aside and just talk about the actual pressings…

This is definitely an amazing-sounding record. Musically, it’s not my cup of tea, but it’s incredibly well-recorded, and there are lots of those instruments — like guiros — that make audiophiles’ ears perk up.

My ears perked up on both, but the original definitely sounded better. It was sharper, with a wider soundstage and more gripping textures. The Pure Pleasure is good, but lacking the bite, clarity, and brilliance of the original. If the original is an A+ (and it is seriously amazing sonically), the PP is more like a B+ or an A-, good but nothing to write home about.

If I was obsessed with this record, I’d hold out for the original.

Listening notes

Side 1, original. Sound quality is pretty stunning, an “A” for sure. Wide soundstage, wide variety of textures, all sharp and fun, from the deep sub-sonic bass to the sharp sax and the soft shakers. Track 2 when it gets kicking is very cool, super scary deep bass and plinky middle eastern strings on top, with haunting deep male vocalizing. Sounds great. Not really gripping me musically… music on this side continues to sound stunning but be sort of not my thing 🙂

Side 2, Pure Pleasure. Definitely sounds good. Without the brilliance of the original, a bit bass-heavy, but great sounding, A- or so. The last track sounds particularly good, with super cool textural details (fret buzz?) in the right channel. 

“Thank You My People”

OG. Crazy audio thrills here. Deep bass, soaring vocals, light and gorgeous, guiro is like a little audiophile gift and the Yammies are Santa. This song is more fun as music, and is definitely like the kind of thing I wouldn’t be surprised to hear playing in an audio store as a demo track. 

PP. Soundstage is narrower, textures are less sharp, general presentation is less brilliant. OG is an A or A+, this is a B+/A-. Soundstage is also noticeably shifted to the right, not as centred as on the OG. I’m not seeing any needle drop artifacts here tho.

Share your thoughts