Less than a decade after experts predicted music sales would die because of the ubiquity of streaming services, vinyl of all things has made a major comeback. In 2016, sales of vinyl reached a 25-year high, as consumers turned away from digital formats, ignored CDs and tapes and went back to the source: records. More records were sold in 2016 than in any year since 1991. There are endless variations of records and if you’re just getting started with a vinyl collection, you’ll find that discovering new albums is part of the fun. However, there are some records that all collectors need in order to have an eclectic mix of perfection. These are my 13 picks with something from nearly every genre.
David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust
The bestselling vinyl artist of all time is David Bowie, with several of his albums immediately landing in the top 10. You could pick almost any Bowie record and not go wrong, but you would need to buy Ziggy eventually.
Prince’s Purple Rain
Prince’s death caused a run on vinyl from Minneapolis superstar, with originals almost impossible to find. But Prince should be in every person’s collection, especially because of the delirious guitar solos by the The Purple One on this record.
N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton
The album is as searing, urgent and essential as it was when it debuted in the early 80s. No rap album was as influential as this one, which single-handedly launched the era of gangsta rap.
Jacqueline du Pré / Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto
The Elgar Cello Concerto has never been more haunting or searing than in the hands of Jacqueline du Pré. She made the work her own in ways that should have been at odds with Elgar’s resraint, but bringing unbridled passion to Elgar’s simplicity is arguably exactly what makes this record great, even 30 years after its recording.
Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Legend
The discovery of Bob Marley is a rite of passage for most college students. It’s easy to forget how truly influential Marley was until you play this record without stopping. Not a skippable track exists.
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon
Even people who have never listened to Dark Side of the Moon could probably recognize the cover art of this one. And that’s one of the reasons people have rekindled their love affair with vinyl – album art was summarily destroyed by tiny CDs, casettes and of course, mp3s. In addition, when you feel like watching The Wizard of Oz while listening to Pink Floyd, it just feels better (and easier to time) when you spin the record.
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours
Is Rumours the greatest album of all time? It was released in 1978 and after all these years, it is still in the conversation for best-ever, so of course it belongs in anyone’s record collection.
The Clash’s London Calling
Another album in the greatest-ever discussion is surely the third album by the Clash. These punk pioneers are still underrated, even though Rolling Stone placed the album at #8 in its top 10. Besides, how can anyone look at the cover art of Joe Strummer about to smash his guitar and not want to own it?
Paul Simon’s Graceland
Graceland is a wall of sound influenced by Simon’s collaborations with African musicians in South Africa. The record features many musical styles, including pop, rock, zydeco, isicathamiyye and mbaqana. The result is an album full of amazing sounds that are more fun to hear as the musicians intended: on vinyl.
Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories
This list would be incomplete without some classics of the digital era. Daft Punk’s masterpiece features musicians rather than just computers, which brings a humanistic feel to the characteristic technical brilliance of Daft Punk.
Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black
How long has it been since you’ve listened to Back to Black? If you haven’t played it for awhile, you’ll be amazed once again by what remains a perfect album.
The Vince Guarldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas
This is one of the most popular jazz albums of all time. While you should absolutely own a bunch of records by Miles Davis, I can defend this choice by stating that it is still one of the top selling records today. The Vince Guarldi Trio recorded the album as a quick job, accompanying The Peanuts’ 1965 Christmas special. But something about the wistful, nostalgic, and sad qualities of the music has made it a permanent favorite for people around the world.
Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess
The 1986 recording of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess is a landmark because it cemented Gershwin’s legacy as not only a great composer, but as the composer of an opera masterpiece. The pacing is superb and the characters feel as if they’re performing in your living room.