With Black Friday Record Store Day quickly approaching and vinyl sales reaching record numbers, it only makes sense to give you a little insight as to which records you should include in your collection. I began collecting records about 12 years ago after receiving my first record player, I was hooked instantly. Digging through crates at used record stores was my weekend routine and it hasn’t changed much since.
This list was something I created after looking through my own collection to find the ones I thought were necessary for everyone to have in their own collections in no specific order.
Prince – Purple Rain
Release year: 1984
This is one of those records that should probably come standard with every record player purchase. Purple Rain is the soundtrack to the movie of the same name and is one of Prince’s best albums. The 1984 album includes such hits as “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” and of course the almost nine minute album closer “Purple Rain.” Even if you don’t think you’re a Prince fan (not sure how that’s possible), you will love this album and it will get so many spins on your turntable.
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Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
The Nobel Prize winner‘s sixth album is one of those albums that will really define your personal collection. A lot of people will tell you Blonde On Blonde is more of a necessity to have in your collection but I personally enjoy Highway 61 more. I also don’t think it matters which Dylan album you have in your collection, as long as you have at least one. With tracks like “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” and the 11-minute “Desolation Row” Highway 61 is a must have for any vinyl fan.
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Release year: 2007
Radiohead’s seventh studio album wasn’t released on vinyl initially. The self-released pay-what-you-want album was first debuted on the band’s website in October of 2007, followed by a physical release in late December of that same year. Of course, suggesting any Radiohead album to listen to will bring out the worst in some diehard fans but I think In Rainbows is as essential an album as OK Computer or Kid A. The album itself is full of warm poppy melodies that sound amazing on any turntable whether you’re eating breakfast on a Sunday morning or just hanging out with friends, you’ll want to have this in your collection.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Release year: 1977
Another one that should basically come with every turntable purchase, and if you can’t find it at your local record shop for whatever reason, your parents will absolutely have a copy they can give you. The group’s 1977 album is just hit after hit after hit. I mean it’s got songs like “Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” and “Don’t Stop.” If there were Now That’s What I Call Music albums back in 1977 it would more than likely contain at least five songs from from Rumours. This was Fleetwood Mac’s eleventh studio album and it still holds up almost four decades later.
Beck – Morning Phase
Release year: 2014
Perhaps Kanye may disagree with me on this one, but Beck’s Grammy Award winning album, Morning Phase, has become one of my favorite vinyl albums to listen to. As corny as it sounds, Morning Phase is actually a perfect album to wake up to. The 40 second opening track, “Cycle,” offers a crescendo of strings that bring you into one of the most beautiful albums to come out in the last decade. Known for his more experimental and weirder side, Morning Phase shows off Beck’s acoustic side much like his classic 2002 album Sea Change. The album’s production is absolutely stunning and will sound incredible even if you have a budget set up.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Release year: 2010
It seemed appropriate to bring up a great Kanye album after including Beck’s album. This is another selection that may get diehard Kanye fans upset, but Kanye’s fifth studio album is the one to own on vinyl. The record is the epitome of a modern day masterpiece that should be heard on the finest medium possible. The songs include some of the best production for a hip-hop album, some of the best features, and the packaging for the vinyl is so intricate only a perfectionist like Kanye could create it. The layering on tracks like “Runaway,” “Gorgeous,” and “So Appalled” makes you wonder if Kanye created this album specifically to be heard on vinyl. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is absolutely one of the albums you need to have in your collection. For the production and samples alone, this is a perfect vinyl album to own even if you’re not a big Kanye fan.
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Release year: 1994
Jeff Buckley was a singer-songwriter with voice of an angel who we lost too early, and it should be a crime if you don’t want to put a needle to wax to hear his angelic voice. Buckley’s 1994 album is one that inspired a generation of singer-songwriters and gave us one the best and the most recognized versions of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Since the Cohen cover is such a huge hit, the other amazing tracks tend to get overshadowed, like “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over,” his cover of “Corpus Christi Carol,” and the emotional “Last Goodbye.” The album is so good that David Bowie has even stated it would make his top ten list of desert island albums, if Bowie loves this album than you definitely need it in your collection.
Jack White – Lazaretto
Release year: 2014
In typical Jack White fashion, this record contains many tricks up its sleeve — a hologram angel, secret tracks, secret grooves, and two grooves that meet at the first chorus of “Just One Drink” — due to all these extras it had to be named “The Ultra LP.” While Jack does stick to his blues-rock sound, he also experiments a little with a more hip hop sound on tracks like “Lazaretto” and “That Black Bat Licorice.” White’s second solo album did so well on the vinyl charts during it’s opening week in 2014 that it actually set the opening sales record for most vinyl sales of an album since Nielsen started keeping track in 1991. Besides all the cool knicks and knacks the album has, the songs sound amazing since White used no computers and recorded straight to analog tape which is the ideal way to record, especially for vinyl.
Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Release year: 1966
Pet Sounds is Brian Wilson’s masterpiece. I really don’t know what else to say after that but I’ll give it a shot. The controversial 1966 album from the Beach Boys was the source of a lot of tension for Brian Wilson and the other band members but what he created was something that hadn’t existed before. There are so many sounds and so many instruments involved in this album that the group could not perform the songs live, it was too difficult for the members. That just goes to show how unique and out there this album is. It was one of the albums that was way ahead of it’s time; the production, the songwriting, the style, everything was way ahead of what every other band was doing or attempting to do.
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
Release year: 2005
This is one that no matter whose record collection I look at, it’s always there. As far as records from the early 2000s go this is one every music lover knows. Sufjan’s Illinois followed his 2003 album Michigan, as part of his United States album set that ended up being a joke — but the album itself is no joke. For a vinyl album you want songs that have dynamic and are full of great production, Illinois has probably the best examples of both characteristics. Tracks like “John Wayne Gacy, Jr,” “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland Illinois,” and “Chicago” are just a few songs that stick out as great examples.
David Bowie – Hunky Dory
Release year: 1971
It is a very difficult task to pick just one Bowie album, but I think this is one people will be pleased with. Hunky Dory was Bowie’s fourth studio album and could be a great introduction to the icon’s catalogue for someone who isn’t familiar with him. You can ask any musician and they’ll tell you how Bowie was one of their major inspirations for everything from his music to his fashion sense, the man was a visionary. You will be blown away just hearing “Life On Mars” and “Changes” for the first time on vinyl if you haven’t already. Hunky Dory is one of the more important records to own in your collection.
The Beatles – Revolver
Release year: 1966
Of course I had to include a Beatles album on this list! The group’s 1966 album is by far their most experimental and psychedelic. Much like Pet Sounds, Revolver is one of those albums with lots of layers and a whole lot going on throughout the album. Another similarity between the two is that they were impossible to perform live, which should give you an idea of just how many layers and how many sounds there are in this album. As far as vinyl collectors go, they might say The White Album or Sgt. Pepper’s but I’ve always been a Revolver fan — mostly because of just how weird it can get.
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Release year: 1982
This album is the perfect example of what proper sound mixing should be. MJ’s Thriller is one of those albums that is loved by everyone worldwide, and I mean of course it is, it’s so great. The Quincy Jones produced album is the perfect example of how music should sound, Jones was a perfectionist who knew exactly what sound he wanted and this album exemplifies his vision. Thriller came out in 1982, so the sounds you’re hearing are what the musicians played, there wasn’t ProTools for recording and it was all done through an analog system. Not only does it sound great, it also has some killer features from Paul McCartney and an insane solo from Eddie Van Halen.
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
Release year: 2014
Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is the album that made Sturgill Simpson on the map. This is one of the newer albums I’d suggest adding to your record collection as it came out in 2014, and it’s a country album so not really a genre everyone enjoys, or so they think. After listening to Metamodern Sounds I started seeking out different country albums and found myself listening to more Willie Nelson, Margo Price, Loretta Lynn, and Hank Williams than I’d ever expected I would before. These songs aren’t just great, they’ll open your eyes to a whole new genre you may not have been familiar with before.
Elliott Smith – Either/Or
Release year: 1997
The perfect album to throw on during a rainy day, a breakup, a death in the family, the end of The Office, or anything sad really. Of all the Elliott Smith albums I’ve listened to Either/Or is the one I keep coming back to, and once I got the original Kill Rock Stars album on vinyl, I’ve been going back to it more and more. The lo-fi sounds and heartbreak Elliott creates on this album will cut to the core of anyone no matter how strong they think they are.
Weezer – Weezer (The Blue Album)
Release year: 1994
If you’re going to start or add to your record collection, make sure you have some Weezer and make sure you start with The Blue Album. This is the album that gave the world “Buddy Holly,” “Surf Wax America,” “Say It Ain’t So,” and of course “My Name Is Jonas.” The group’s 1994 debut catapulted them from a small club band to the biggest band on college campuses within a year. Not only is the songwriting of Rivers Cuomo impressive in itself on the album, but the Ric Ocasek production is spot on for an early 90’s alternative rock band and for your collection.
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Release year: 2002
To be fair, this is an album I personally discovered about six years after its 2002 release. It changed my life. Once I heard this record, I was instantly hooked and immediately looked back on all of Wilco’s albums that I had missed. The album was an introduction to an already great band who, to my knowledge, didn’t even exist. If you have never heard Wilco’s music before, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a great introductory record to get started with and a great record to include in your collection.
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Release year: 2010
Another Grammy Award winner for album of the year, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs is one of those albums that should be included in any modern record collection. The 2010 album was recorded in a church in Canada and is a must-listen from start to finish especially with tracks like “Month Of May,” “Ready To Start,” and “We Used To Wait.” Arcade Fire’s singer Win Butler describes the album as a mix of Depeche Mode and Neil Young, and that’s a perfect introduction to the album.
Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Release year: 1998
Another folk-rock album that needs to be in your collection of awesome records. Jeff Mangum and co.’s second album is one of those albums you can put on during a rainy day but not feel too sad about while listening to it, even though it touches on death and some Anne Frank stuff. This record will definitely raise some eyebrows from the people browsing your records, but once you put it on you’ll have a new Neutral Milk Hotel fan.
Beach House – Teen Dream
Release year: 2010
If dynamics, production, and shoegaze are your thing than you probably already own this album. If you don’t already have it, than you need to go to your nearest record store and grab Teen Dream immediately. I thought this album would only sound good on headphones and boy was I wrong when I bought the vinyl edition.
Shop for these albums at your local record store or online outlets like Vinyl Me Please.