Vinyl is alive and well in the 2000s.
After being overtaken by compact discs in the ‘90s, vinyl records have made a comeback. In this modern age of digital streaming, LP sales are rising. In 2019, the revenue generated by vinyl surpassed that of CDs!
The revival of vinyl could be motivated by mere nostalgia, or “retromania” based on an enthusiasm for the fashions and cultural paraphernalia of the past. (Thank the hipsters, they started it.) Even so, some purists have always said that vinyl is the best way to listen to music because it sounds more “real.”
While music is as subjective as any art form, most people can agree that there are certain works that rise above the rest for having the greatest relevance to their genre, the most impact on music in general, or the most influence on culture and other musicians. Besides, listening to classic rock like Pink Floyd and the Beatles can actually be good for you.
With that in mind, if you were one of the many people who got a turntable over the holidays, or if you’re just looking for some new records to play, we’ve got some suggestions for must-have albums. This is not just a list of our “favorite” albums – but rather, it is a well-researched selection of twelve albums that are culturally, historically, or artistically significant from the days when vinyl was king.
Yes, your vinyl collection can (and should) include music by current artists. But the ones on this list are must-have albums worth appreciating for their place in music history, and they are titles that absolutely belong in any impressive record collection. We tried to choose examples from a variety of genres, from jazz to pop.
The following must-have albums are a great way to experience some of the best music ever made during the heyday of vinyl. (The original release dates are in parentheses; if it’s a compilation album, we show the range of release dates of all included songs.) Play these on your turntable, and listen to how the music was originally meant to be heard!
Miles Davis “Kind Of Blue” (Jazz; 1959) – This all-time classic is widely regarded as the most influential and best-selling jazz record of all time. It features just five songs — but if you’re the great Miles Davis, that’s more than enough to justify an album. Even if you aren’t typically into jazz or instrumental music, you can get into this. Perfect for late night, low light listening, and when played on vinyl you start to understand why good jazz is something you feel more than you hear.
Elvis Presley “Elvis 30 #1 Hits” (Rock and Roll; 1956-1977) – If you wish to experience the true quality of rock and roll almost from its very beginning, then acquire “Elvis 30 #1 Hits,” you’ll be glad that you did. It’s an excellent introduction to Elvis’ music since it contains most of his best songs including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Me Tender,” “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and “Return to Sender.” All rock and roll classics!
The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (Psychedelic Rock; 1967) – The Beatles’ groundbreaking collection of songs, widely credited as being rock’s first concept album, was highly praised by fans and music critics around the world for its innovations in production, songwriting, and graphic design. Not to mention Sgt. Pepper’s famous album cover! The image looks like an “I Spy” picture. It features the Beatles in their military band costumes, standing beside wax figures of themselves, in front of 50-plus celebrities, Can you recognize any of them?
The Beatles’ “Revolver” (Psychedelic Rock; 1966) – We strongly recommend “Revolver” to accompany “Sgt. Pepper’s.” These two albums were both made when the Beatles were at their peak of creativity; artistically and technically speaking, they were ahead of the times. You’ll enjoy listening to their unique sound and beautiful vocal harmonies “Here, There, and Everywhere.” Plus, the lyrics are fun and easy sing-alongs.
The Beach Boys “Sounds Of Summer” (Surf Rock; 1962-1988) – The “Sounds of Summer” LP is appropriate year-round, with one caveat: playing these songs could cause you to set off toward the West Coast in a VW bus loaded with surfboards, never to be seen again. This 2 LP set features the Beach Boys’ US Top 40 hits “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Surfin’ USA,” “Fun, Fun Fun,” “Little Deuce Coup,” “Barbara Ann,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Good Vibrations,” and many more.
Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” (Progressive Rock; 1973) – This concept album from the British rock band Pink Floyd was a sort of musical experiment featuring synthesizers and sound effects. And yet this iconic album is regarded as one of the greatest of all time for a reason, making it well worth the investment in the vinyl. The best way to describe it is like a musical journey through time and space. Then there is the iconic album cover. The line of white light passing through a prism to create a colored rainbow was meant to symbolize the band’s stage lighting and the album lyrics. As evidenced by the number of t-shirts bearing this image today, it has become synonymous with Pink Floyd itself. This LP is a classic among must-have albums.
John Denver “The Windstar Greatest Hits” (Folk/Country; 1971-1990) – John Denver founded the charitable Windstar Foundation in 1976 to promote sustainable living, but he wasn’t just an environmental activist and humanitarian. In the 1970s, John Denver was one of America’s best-selling performers and one of the most popular acoustic artists of the decade. This album features 11 of John Denver’s greatest hits from the ’70s that were re-recorded in the 90’s, not long before his untimely death in October 1997. If you’re nostalgic for simpler times, or if you like folk music with an environmental twist, you will enjoy Denver’s down-to-earth ballads about the beauty of nature and the joy of country living such as “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Grandma’s Feather Bed,” “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Calypso,” “Annie’s Song,” “Rocky Mountain High,” and more.
Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” (Soft Rock; 1977) – This musical masterpiece by British-American band Fleetwood Mac features an eclectic variety of rock, pop, blues and folk elements that makes it difficult to categorize. Considered to be their best release, the songs sound just as fresh today as they did back then. Impress your friends by spinning one of the best-selling albums of all time to prove how culturally relevant you are. A great LP to spin when you’re relaxing or in a mellow mood.
ABBA “Gold: Greatest Hits” (Disco/Pop; 1972-1982) – The music of this Swedish supergroup resonated far beyond the group’s native country. Gold is the best-selling ABBA album, as well as one of the best-selling albums worldwide. And for good reason – this collection includes all of their greatest hits: “Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “The Name of the Game,” and many more in a 2-LP set. Their upbeat music is fun to listen to while you dance/party/work out. If these songs don’t get you up and moving, nothing will!
Paul McCartney & Wings “Greatest Hits” (Rock; 1978) – The first ever compilation of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles hits. “Silly Love Songs,” “Live and Let Die,” “With a Little Luck,” “Jet” and “Band on the Run” are still considered some of his best works. Even when it comes to the lesser-known “Mull of Kintyre,” this is a collection worth owning as there is not one bad song on this album – which means there are a dozen reasons why you should have a copy.
ELO “All Over The World: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra” (Symphonic Rock; 1973-1983) – The music of this British band is characterized by a fusion of high-tech progressive rock with classical arrangements. The songs on this 4-disc set includes many popular favorites: “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Evil Woman,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “Turn To Stone,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” “All Over The World,” “Strange Magic,” and more. If you haven’t gotten around to listening to ELO, you are doing yourself a disservice. Add this one to your collection of must-have albums.
Michael Jackson “Thriller” (Pop; 1982) – Like him or not, you must admit Michael Jackson understood how to fashion and deliver a catchy tune better than nearly anyone in the history of modern music. With Thriller, he was inspired to create an album where “every song was a killer.” Thriller‘s success set the standard for the modern music industry with its songs, videos, and promotion strategies influencing artists, record labels, producers, marketers and choreographers. Beyond breaking ground, it also broke records: the biggest selling album of all time, the first album to win eight Grammys in a single night, and the first album to stay in the Top 10 charts for a whole year. These are the hits that were all over the radio in the 80s (and even today!) There are probably plenty of used albums out there, but the new album is pretty cool, too, with a full-color photo of Jackson emblazoned on the vinyl.
So there you have it, twelve must-have albums for your record collection. Highly recommended for modern vinyl fans as an awesome blast from the past. Be on the lookout for the original albums in second-hand shops, or most are available new on Amazon. (If you buy the albums on Amazon, many of them also come with a FREE MP3 version for your digital music library.)
What vinyl albums do you recommend? Please leave a comment and let us know!