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The best vinyl records (and what you need to know about this timeless format)

Vinyl records are timeless and every man should have a solid collections. Here are the best albums to have.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Classic
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A Night in Tunisia by Art Blakey and His Messengers
A Night in Tunisia by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers
Classic
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Zombie by Fela Kuti
Zombie by Fela Kuti
Classic
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Legend by Bob Marley and the Wailers
Legend by Bob Marley & The Wailers
Classic
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The White Album by The Beatles
The White Album by The Beatles
Classic
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The Yes Album by Yes
The Yes Album by Yes
Classic
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The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Classic
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Jesus Christ Superstar - A Rock Opera
Jesus Christ Superstar
Classic
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Tusk by Fleetwood Mac
Tusk by Fleetwood Mac
Classic
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Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
Classic
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The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie
The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie
Classic
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To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Modern Classic
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Black Velvet by Charles Bradley
Black Velvet by Charles Bradley
Modern Classic
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Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington
Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington
Modern Classic
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Black Star by David Bowie
Black Star by David Bowie
Modern Classic
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Is This It by The Strokes
Is This It by The Strokes
Modern Classic
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Kid A by Radiohead
Kid A by Radiohead
Modern Classic
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Kaputt by Destroyer
Kaputt by Destroyer
Modern Classic
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Melody A.M. by Röyksop
Melody A.M. by Royksopp
Modern Classic
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The Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson
The Court of Crimson by King Crimson
Modern Classic
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We Will Always Love You by The Avalanches
We Will Always Love You by The Avalanches
Modern Classic
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Agaeits Byrjun by Sigur Ros
Agaetic Byrjun by Sigur Ros
Modern Classic
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If the last decade is any indication, vinyl records aren't going anywhere. Audiophiles and casual music listeners alike can't get enough of the format, a physical artifact built for the turntable. Sales continue to surge and musicians continue to release music in this high-fidelity manner.

Sow how's your collection? We could go on and on about the more esoteric albums you should have stocked in your crates but here, we're breaking down the essentials. The following well-curated list will serve as the skeleton of your sprawling vinyl record collection. By all means, go above and beyond this list, but be sure to start here, if you haven't already.

Here are the best vinyl records.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John

Classic

Sir Elton's best offering is a majestic piece of piano pop and glam rock gold. Most artists can only produce six or seven great tracks in an entire career. Here, they fall on a single record -- an impressive feat atop a career that was already extremely impressive at this point. Many see it as Elton John's magnum opus, with hits like Benny and the Jets, Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting, Harmony, Candle in the Wind, and Sweet Painted Lady.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A Night in Tunisia by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers

Classic

With all respect for the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, and more, this album, which was released in the late 50s, demonstrates the addictive complexity that is jazz. It's tremendously busy musically, without sacrificing trademark swing and jaw-dropping improvisation. It's also compelling in that Blakey, one of the brightest minds in American jazz, led his band from his throne at the drum kit, a relative rarity in the field. The album truly is a jazz milestone.

A Night in Tunisia by Art Blakey and His Messengers
A Night in Tunisia by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers
Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Zombie by Fela Kuti

Classic

Good records sound wonderful. Great records inspire; or, in this case, infuriate as well. Released in 1977, Zombie points a stern finger at the government of Nigeria, where Kuti is from. The afrobeat star was beaten severely by the military on his commune after the tremendously popular album dropped. It's a powerful and sobering message set to shimmering brass, bouncy percussion, and funk-driven melodies.

Zombie by Fela Kuti
Zombie by Fela Kuti
Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Legend by Bob Marley & The Wailers

Classic

There's hardly a more universal figure in the world of music than Bob Marley. This collection of hits is just about perfect, reminding the listener just how far above the reggae crowd the Jamaican icon was. There's an almost medicinal quality to the record, never rushed, just patiently uncoiled on its own jam-centric schedule. You'll feel better the moment the needle hits the groove, whether it's the first or five-hundredth listen.

Legend by Bob Marley and the Wailers
Legend by Bob Marley & The Wailers
Classic
The White Album by The Beatles
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The White Album by The Beatles

Classic

Just about anything from The Beatles is worthy of the highest honors but The White Album is a real musicians' album. It marks the band's official foray into more exploratory genres, beyond the delightful LSD-fueled chaos of Sgt. Pepper's. It remains the powerhouse band's only double album ever released and maybe George Harrison's official arrival as a songwriting force (most obviously with While My Guitar Gently Weeps). The Beatles do it all here, from the western country of Rocky Raccoon to the ragtime-y-ness of Honey Pie to the lullaby-like qualities of Cry Baby Cry.

The White Album by The Beatles
The White Album by The Beatles
Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Yes Album by Yes

Classic

This is the album that deservedly launched the prog-rockers into the foreground. It shows the band's out-of-this-world chops, namely in the form of intricate song structures, plenty of pace, and a jumpy style of rock very much informed by the limitlessness of jazz. It's also where one of the best songs in all of prog-rock lives in the multi-faceted I've Seen All Good People. Every song feels like an amazing juggling act of highly organized multi-tasking mayhem.

The Yes Album by Yes
The Yes Album by Yes
Classic

The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

Classic

An all-time great, this album has become embedded in our cultural fabric. Musically, it's groundbreaking, flexing uncharted studio prowess and a vast horizon of experimental and cerebral rock sound. There are ten individual tracks but really it's just a single organism flowing seamlessly like a wave from start to finish. The gorgeous vocals and guitar work are matched only by sharp sampling and post-production savvy that make the whole thing feel more like a multimedia installation than just a record.

The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Classic

Jesus Christ Superstar

Classic

Arguably one of the best soundtracks of all time, this classic score to a rock opera of sorts is breathless. The work of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, along with many members of Joe Cocker's backing band, it's legendary, electrifying stuff. And, dealing in religion, it's not without scandal, originally banned by the BBC when it first came out.

Jesus Christ Superstar - A Rock Opera
Jesus Christ Superstar
Classic
Fleetwood Mac Tusk album.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Tusk by Fleetwood Mac

Classic

The greatest record by Fleetwood Mac and easily one of the best albums of the 70s, Tusk demonstrates the very coolest soft rock has to offer. While not the commercial success that Rumours was, this album is beloved by audiophiles for its many subtleties, from post-punk influences to avant-pop sensibilities. The production is clean and intricate, giving your ears lots of candy to munch on over the course of its nearly 75-minute playtime.

Tusk by Fleetwood Mac
Tusk by Fleetwood Mac
Classic
Miles Davis Kind of Blue album cover.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Kind of Blue by Miles Davis

Classic

Ask a music professor what their favorite jazz album of all time is and the majority will say Kind of Blue. This incredible record glides effortlessly despite being immensely complex. It demonstrates the absolute coolness that Davis exuded, not just as a musician, but as a man and a massive stage (or studio) presence. Released in 1959, it remains untouchable in terms of modal jazz and its creative liberties. Davis is famous for getting the best out of his musicians while allowing them all kinds of freedom and this record cements that.

Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
Classic
Little Stevie Wonder Jazz Soul LP Cover
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie

Classic

If you feel like being taken aback by a kid prodigy, then this record is perfect for you. Released in 1962, the album also calls your name if you just like pure improvisational jazz. One of the first recordings of the great Stevie Wonder, this LP record clearly foreshadows a long and wonderful career. Better still, it feels like the kind of garage-set jam sessions where all the greats were born. There are no rules, save for playing to your heart's content.

The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie
The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie
Classic
To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Image used with permission by copyright holder

To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

Modern Classic

It's less than a decade old but To Pimp A Butterfly already feels timeless. The record solidified Lamar's voice as one of the best ever in hip-hop, one so razor-sharp that it ultimately earned him a Pulitzer. The references are astute, the instrumentation is mind-boggling, and the record's detailed portrait of the Black American experience is more telling than ever. Throughout, there's no subject or time signature where Lamar feels uncomfortable. His dense lyrics are the stuff of literature courses and are delivered effortlessly by a real master of his craft.

To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Modern Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Black Velvet by Charles Bradley

Modern Classic

The late Charles Bradley didn't really experience success until his 50s. The former James Brown cover act from Florida broke late but never looked back. He's responsible for some of the most impassioned vocals in all of music, buoyed by an incredible backing band that plays picture-perfect vintage soul and funk. It feels familiar yet new, revivalist but in an adventurous way. This final release from Bradley cements his all-star status in his own right as well as in his ability to brilliantly reimagine the songs of others (you'll never hear Nirvana's Stay Away quite the same way again).

Black Velvet by Charles Bradley
Black Velvet by Charles Bradley
Modern Classic
Kamasi Washington Heaven and Earth Album Cover
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington

Modern Classic

Yup, a 2018 album can certainly be on the list, especially when you're Kamasi Washington. The saxophonist and brilliant orchestrator is behind some of the best, most thought-provoking instrumental music out there today and it fares extremely well in vinyl form. This album in particular is grand and orchestral, just the thing for a spin on the old turntable. It's an odyssey each and every time, like a nowadays jazz take on Dark Side of the Moon (which you should obviously also listen to on vinyl).

Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington
Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington
Modern Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Black Star by David Bowie

Modern Classic

Bowie's discography is marvelous from start to finish but there's something both glorious and haunting about his final work. Black Star is the ultimate mic drop, a gorgeous parting statement from one of rock 'n' roll's most towering and fluid figures. It eulogizes his passing with immortal sounds that will fill up "best of" lists fifty and a hundred years from now. We don't need to get into Bowie's prior work because we all know how special it was. But to go out this way is utterly graceful. He earned every right to phone in his last album but instead he did the opposite.

Black Star by David Bowie
Black Star by David Bowie
Modern Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Is This It by The Strokes

Modern Classic

There's hardly anything more New York and Y2K-era cool than The Strokes. This definitive album from the indie rockers shows a band in untouchable form, capable of music that's simultaneously radio-friendly and gifted with a bit of punk-rock grit. Any one of the band's members could have off on noteworthy solo tangents (and some have) but this record shows the magic that can come from firing on all cylinders together. It's full of memorable tracks, so much so that you distinctly remember exactly what you were doing the first time you heard Last Nite or Hard to Explain. It's pretty incredible that it was the band's debut studio effort.

Is This It by The Strokes
Is This It by The Strokes
Modern Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Kid A by Radiohead

Modern Classic

Many refer to Radiohead as the Beatles of the current generation and for good reason. Picking Thom Yorke and Company's best release is no easy task but Kid A may just demonstrate how important the band's been to music. It expertly marries electronica and rock with classical and experimental sounds to perfectly frame the culture of a brand-new millennium (it was released in 2000). Like the truly great acts, Radiohead has never nestled too comfortably in one genre. The quartet is always adapting and this record shows just how ahead of the curve it always is, as it practically ushered in the popularity of electro-rock and the second wave of post-rock.

Kid A by Radiohead
Kid A by Radiohead
Modern Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Kaputt by Destroyer

Modern Classic

Perhaps most famous for his work in the New Pornographers, Dan Bejar is also the brainchild of Destroyer. His solo work is fascinating, combining vivid lyrics and a contemporary sound with the confidence and composure of an experienced crooner. The result is an avant-garde kind of music that's wildly sophisticated yet full of smooth-as-velvet entry points. It's the work of a singer-songwriter with a real storytelling gift and an infatuation with the unexpected.

Kaputt by Destroyer
Kaputt by Destroyer
Modern Classic
Royksopp Melody A.M. Banksy Album Cover
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Melody A.M. by Royksopp

Modern Classic

Released in 2001, Röyksopp's Melody A.M. is a great listen and doesn't seem immensely valuable on the surface until you see that -- at least with this limited pressing -- the cover art is done by the iconic and ever-mysterious artist, Banksy. It's a great bit of added flair to a smooth and underrated album by one of Norway's greatest electro-pop music duo acts. With the addition of Banksy well before he gained international acclaim, this version of the record is quite valuable.

Melody A.M. by Röyksop
Melody A.M. by Royksopp
Modern Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Court of Crimson by King Crimson

Modern Classic

This debut album from heady U.K. act King Crimson is nothing short of extraordinary. As such, it deserves much more than a free Spotify stream. Falling miraculously somewhere right smack-dab in the middle of blues, rock, jazz, and cinema, the album feels progressive even today, more than a half-century after it was released. It's classic rock, for certain, but with a careful ear, you'll detect all kinds of outside influences. And that kind of nuance is best enjoyed by way of vinyl and multiple listening parties.

The Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson
The Court of Crimson by King Crimson
Modern Classic
The Avalanches We Will Always Love You LP Art
Image used with permission by copyright holder

We Will Always Love You by The Avalanches

Modern Classic

Call me nuts, but I think this record will go down in some form of Hall of Fame, decades from now. It features all of the best current talent, woven into a happy pill of music, genres be damned. It's got electro, pop, rock, folk, and much more. And I mean by some esteemed peeps and acts, such as Weezer, Cola Boyy, Kurt Vile, MGMT, and much more. Just set the needle to play and enjoy every single layer of this instant pop classic. It's a complete lesson is how to bring on your favorite guests and blend them in seamlessly into your very own thing; not an easy task.

We Will Always Love You by The Avalanches
We Will Always Love You by The Avalanches
Modern Classic
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Agaetic Byrjun by Sigur Ros

Modern Classic

Atmospheric music plays oh so well through vinyl. Especially if you have a decent setup and it's Sigur Ros you are playing. The Scandinavian stalwarts of ambient glory never let you down and this album is arguably the band's most animated and energetic. If you want a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs and all kinds of emotive energy, this one's for you. Also, it's on the earlier side of Sigur Ros releases so it will probably gain in value over the years, provide you treat it well.

Agaeits Byrjun by Sigur Ros
Agaetic Byrjun by Sigur Ros
Modern Classic

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of music sounds best on vinyl?

Everything sounds better on vinyl. But, to nitpick, one could easily argue that the richer and more resonant genres of music sound better in this fuller, more robust sonic format. Great classical, jazz and experimental recordings do especially well here.

What Are The Most Valuable Vinyl Albums?

At the end of the day, it’s all about demand. Much like a Michael Jordan rookie card, the first release of now larger-than-life bands can be worth thousands, if not tens of thousands. Think Nirvana’s Love Buzz b/w Big Cheese EP from 1988 or The Beatles’ debut single Love Me Do from 1962.

Are vinyl albums worth anything?

In short, yes. However, given the popularity of the field and the mass-production at play again these days, the value is not the same across the board. If you do plan to collect and maintain or even increase the value of your finds, proper storage is key. Like wine, vinyl records need the right environment. Room temperature and reasonable humidity will keep your treasured musical discs from warping.

With the above two dozen vinyl albums at your disposal, you'll be listening to the best music in the very best format. And while you're diving deep into tunes, consider our best music podcasts list and our best workout podcasts list. Need a means of playing those vinyl records? Here's how to find the right record player. Happy listening.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock

Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since. He spent years making, selling, and sipping Pinot Noir in the Dundee Hills before a full return to his journalistic roots in 2016. He's helplessly tied to European soccer, casting for trout, and grunge rock. In addition to The Manual, he writes for SevenFifty Daily, Sip Northwest, The Somm Journal, The Drake, Willamette Week, Travel Oregon, and more. He has a website and occasionally even updates it: markastock.com.

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