In this “dying age of music” and reign of streaming services, there is one medium of music sales that is rising in popularity: Vinyl albums.
The audiophile’s art of harnessing vinyl records has always been a cherished and personal endeavor. But even if you aren’t crate digging to find funky, unfading records for a get together at your place or to feed your addiction to amazing albums, obtaining a vinyl collection (and record player, of course) can be achieved in more ways than one.
What a man listens to says a lot about his personality. Show your guests that you have a refined and unique taste. Having a great vinyl collection is also a great conversation starter for guests and can set the perfect mood for a dinner party or afternoon at home with friends and family.
To do you a solid, we’ve done the crate-digging for you (although it might still be cheaper to go on a hunt and try to find these at your local record store).
We could make a list as long as the distance between Portland, Oregon, and Miami, Florida, filled with go-to albums for each man’s vinyl collection because we each have our own tastes. However, our list of the 28 vinyl albums every man should own is a general base for works of art that have been recycled and recited for years on end, and for good reason.
With that being said, please take our list as a suggestion and starting point for your entire collection. If you want to make additions to your crate, we wholeheartedly encourage it.
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars by David Bowie
Because a list of vinyl albums every man should own wouldn’t be complete without David Bowie. In fact, it would be a travesty. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars is Bowie’s fifth studio album (out of a total of 27) and is regarded as one of his most inventive and influential. It follows the story of an androgynous alien rock star, Ziggy Stardust, and is teeming with cinematic sounds that depict both an otherworldly atmosphere and a decaying future.
Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim by Frank Sinatra
This pick from the traditional pop, jazzy singing, Rat Pack leader himself, Frank Sinatra, isn’t his most renowned LP, but it features some of his best songs with help from a crafty pianist, guitarist, and composer by the name of Antonio Carlos Jobim. It spent a whopping 28 weeks on Billboard’s charts and hasn’t lost any of its magic after passing a half-century since its release.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Band by The Beatles
Now, on to the album that Frank Sinatra’s masterpiece above lost to at the 10th Grammy Awards that year: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Band. The Beatles have a heap of albums to choose from, but the group’s alter-ego record, which follows the life of Sgt. Pepper, indisputably features some of the best and most innovative music of its time, proving that pop music could also be regarded as high art. To this day, Sgt. Pepper’s sits on top of Rolling Stone’s greatest albums of all time.
Bitches Brew by Miles Davis
Miles Davis is one of the most acclaimed and influential jazz musicians and composers in the history of the genre. Although Kind of Blue is the most iconic in his catalog, the jazz-rock fusion album, Bitches Brew, is one of my own favorites. His trumpet talent and innovative ear shine through on every track. More so, it puts forth a new sense of improvisation and a clear-cut example of how one expresses one’s emotions musically.
Legend by Bob Marley and the Wailers
Bob Marley is one of our favorites here at The Manual because his music is a versatile choice for shaving, barbecuing, or even chowing down at the dinner table, among other settings. Classic, timeless Marley melodies are littered throughout the tracklist, highlighted by “Is This Love,” “Three Little Birds,” “One Love,” “I Shot the Sheriff” — you get the gist. This is a collection of Marley and the Wailers’ that has persisted and is a mainstay choice for both reggae and music lovers alike.
Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Following its release in 1977, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours became one of the fastest-selling albums of all time. In fact, even after 40 years, songs such as “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “Never Going Back Again,” are still widely played on rock, country, and indie radio stations across the states. Thanks to the resurgence of vinyl record sales, the album’s huge influence on later artists, and its clear position as a classic piece of art, Rumours is still one of the top 10 vinyl records sold today. It’s indisputably one of the best examples of how pain and struggle can be twisted into a beautiful, relatable, and powerful set of emotions through songwriting, as the group’s main songwriters — Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, and Lindsey Buckingham — were masters of turning personal tragedy into timeless hits. We recommend you drop the needle on this wax LP on a sunny summer day and let this iconic group take you on a timeless journey.
Joan Baez by Joan Baez
Before the world was blessed with the songwriting and folky greatness of Bob Dylan, there was Joan Baez. Baez is still widely known for her association with Dylan in the early ‘60s, however, she was a pioneer of civil rights activism and the modern folk movement years before Dylan took the reins. Her self-titled debut album was recorded in just four days when Baez was only 19 years old. It features a reimagined collection of warm, intimate, and traditional folk tunes that sparked the second folk revival that followed in the ‘60s, an era reminiscent of the Baez’s dynamic and chilling vibrato vocals, and her forever under-appreciated guitar licks.
Wild Is The Wind by Nina Simone
The story of Nina Simone is a tragic one, but her vast array of musical styles coupled with vibrant and haunting vocals have persisted through time, particularly on the album Wild Is The Wind. Some call it Simone’s “unintentional masterpiece” as it rides through waves of pop, moody jazz, and bluesy soul, spewing unadulterated lyrics highlighting racial inequality, especially at the time of the album’s release in 1966. The song, “Four Women,” a stripped tune over delicate piano melodies that celebrates the varieties of black womanhood, is still heralded as one of the most chilling and beautiful recordings in music history.
Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan
Recorded over the course of six days in 1965, this is Bob Dylan’s most personal piece of work. Its influence on folk music is undeniable, but the fact that it’s his first all-electric LP and it puts his sound construction, sense of songwriting, and robust vocals at the front makes it one to admire. Because of the record’s personal presence, this is Dylan’s “profile album” in a sense. The work is highlighted by songs such as “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Tombstone Blues,” and “Ballad Of A Thin Man.”
At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash
The authenticity, level of storytelling, and overall angst of Johnny Cash are on full display in this live recording of his performance at Folsom Prison in 1968. The recording certainly aids in showing off Cash’s gritty, hard-headed sense of humility, but his past experiences with addiction and hardship make this one of the most recognizable works from Mr. Cash (and in all performance history, for that matter) because of how relatable it is. Johnny Cash is one of the most iconic musicians in history, especially in the country music world, and this is the record that revived his career.
Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys
According to Rolling Stone, Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys is the second-best album of all time. We at The Manual would have to agree. Pet Sounds is a pristine work of art in terms of composition and production, but it shines through generations because of its stunning melodies, lyrical themes, and recognizable yet inventive sounds. Highlighted by timeless tunes like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” Sloppy John B,” and “Let’s Go Away For A While,” it’s clear that this album has a huge influence on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album and pop music in general.
40 Greatest Hits by Hank Williams
Seeing as much of his music was made at a time when listeners would only hear singles on the radio, a collection of Hank Williams’ best works is the best route here. His 40 Greatest Hits vinyl is a must-have for country fans and traditional music lovers. In this pressing, you’ll find almost all of his gems including “I Saw The Light” and “Mind Your Own Business.”
Waylon & Willie by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings
Willie has great songs on his own, but man, his work with Waylon Jennings was as fine as aged wine. Their joint ventures continue on, but the original installment of the Waylon & Willie series is the first of its kind to showcase the duo’s resilience to Nashville’s boxed constraints on country music. It was so “outlaw” centered, and so admired, that it went double platinum, making it one of the biggest hits in both musician’s catalogs.
The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
The lush cinematic nature of The Dark Side of the Moon speaks for itself. It’s arguably Pink Floyd’s best album of all time, but it also very well might be one of the best rock albums ever produced. It’s littered with trippy instrumentation blended with atmospheric soundscapes and Roger Water’s signature bass lines, making for a unique and defining piece of ’70s studio rock.
Have One On Me by Joanna Newsom
The triple album box set of Have One On Me by Joanna Newsom may eclipse the two-hour mark, but it’s a beautifully composed compilation of Newsom’s skillful harp playing and indisputable lyric writing ability. Although it’s not dubbed Newsom’s best pieces of work, it’s one that gives listeners some of the most inviting and digestible songs of her career. Her voice may be an acquired taste for some, but the content is wildly accessible for fans of long-drawn, stripped, and vulnerable indie rock. Newsome doubled down on the brilliant execution of her album Ys, and complemented it with the rhythmic pop relics sprinkled in her debut album, The Milk-Eyed Mender. Nonetheless, Have One On Me is a luscious record that spotlights Newsom’s compelling and masterful songwriting as well as classic, unpredictable instrumentation, making one think of late-’60s folk tunes and early-’70s piano rock.
II by Led Zeppelin
Even if you don’t listen to much classic rock, it’s pretty easy to recognize Led Zeppelin as one of the most influential, iconic, and innovative bands. Led Zeppelin — consisting of a hall-of-fame musician lineup of John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant — wrote the entirety of II while on the road touring for the group’s self-titled debut album. Surprisingly, II isn’t widely known as Led Zeppelin’s so-called “best album,” even though it contains some of Led Zeppelin’s most memorable tracks, including “Ramble On,” “Heartbreaker,” and “Whole Lotta Love,” which is considered to be one of the greatest rock n’ roll songs of all time. This deluxe remastered edition also features a companion disc that contains some of the band’s unreleased songs and recording sessions from the II era.
London Calling by The Clash
Indubitably the best post-punk album of all time, London Calling by The Clash channels everything from rock and roll, soul, and blues, to reggae, funk, and rockabilly. This is a must-have album, and not just for its historic presence. It signified stretch in The Clash’s musicality and a shift in music standards from one decade to the next.
Aja by Steely Dan
Aja by Steely Dan is a collection of smooth and silky jazz-rock from undeniably one of the greatest teams ever formed, in regards to pure musicianship and engineering. Its meticulous recording is apparent with crisp sound design and stark attention to detail, showing that studio expertise goes a long way in the construction of an album. Audiophiles of every generation can appreciate Aja for this exact reason. Although the LP consists of only seven total songs, it’s a shoo-in among the 18 vinyl albums every man should own for their home collection.
Blue by Joni Mitchell
The Blue LP may be the final record to showcase Joni Mitchell’s early folk singer period, but it offers a heap of insight into her maturation as a singer-songwriter and composer of complex guitar and piano-based melodies. Even among other albums in the early-’70s golden age of singer-songwriters, Blue reached soul-baring heights few other musicians could replicate. In fact, the LP was so impactful that its influence in genres spanning from folk, rock, pop, and jazz has been recognized and documented since its release over 40 years ago.
Tell Mama by Etta James
Since its debut in 1968, Etta James’ 12-track album Tell Mama has earned its image as one of the greatest and most intimate soul-blues albums ever created. The classic album signaled James’ resurgence as the chart-topping singer she began as, showcasing hits such as “Don’t Lose Your Good Thing,” “Tell Mama,” and a brilliant and justifiable cover of Otis Redding’s “Security.” Although it never charted, her song “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which was written by her friend Fugi Foster, who handed it to James when she visited Foster in prison, is the first original version of a song that has been recorded and covered repeatedly by such high-ticket artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart, and the Allman Brothers.
Innervisions by Stevie Wonder
Without a doubt, any avid music lover should have Stevie Wonder somewhere in their collection. Innervisions is the perfect example of why some albums become classics, and why some do not. Cultural environments and lasting appeal are both big factors in this process. Upon its release, Innervisions played perfectly into this newfound cultural awareness around the world, specifically in the U.S. during the ’60s and ’70s. Aside from this, Wonder’s impeccable talent shines through the album’s vocals, harmonica melodies, complex harmonies, synths, you name it, as his talents shine throughout lasting hits like “Higher Ground” and “Living for the City.”
St. Vincent by St. Vincent
Annie Clark is one of the most confident artists in the musicverse today. Better known by her stage name, St. Vincent, Clark began her music career with The Polyphonic Spree, and was also a member of Sufjan Stevens’ touring band. That, however, is just child’s play when compared to what she’s accomplished since. St. Vincent’s self-titled fourth album, which won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album in 2014, is considered one of the boldest alternative albums in the 2010s. Not only does Clark give us raw yet strange and dark instrumentation, St. Vincent touches on real societal issues like technology dependence (“Huey Newton”) and tough but needed self-reflection (“I Prefer Your Love”).
(Side note: At the Gorge Amphitheatre – more specifically sunset, on the main stage at Sasquatch Music Festival in 2015 — Annie Clark put on a show that I will never forget. Clark’s presentation was both intimate and provocative, including guitar riffs played with her teeth, and moving deliberately in synch with keyboardist Daniel Mintseris, that fit the album’s aesthetic to perfection.)
The College Dropout by Kanye West
The College Dropout by Kanye West is a masterful piece of work that showed the world his craft. The Chicago producer-turned-rapper had his album leaked shortly before its release. West remixed and remastered a classic modern album with gospel hymns and choirs. It features A-list artists such as Jay-Z, John Legend, and Jamie Foxx. If you’re a rap fan this Kanye West vinyl album will be a great addition to your collection.
Body Talk by Robyn
The seventh album from Swedish pop star Robyn is an album trilogy that blends the gaps between pop and dancehall music in a way that also made both electronic and dancehall music more palatable to a larger audience. This electro-pop trio hits every emotion on the scale, whether you’re looking to turn up on a Friday night or want to tone things down on Sunday. But the most telling aspect of Body Talk has got to be its immediate and exciting emotional attachment, which can be described as a contemporary, more musically inclined version of Madonna.
To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp A Butterfly is one of those albums that will be talked about for decades to come. Similarly to Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, Kendrick Lamar tells the story of what it’s like to be a black man in America, and most importantly, to depict his humanity. Lamar reflects on personal struggles, as well as modern racial subjects, but what he does best is project his voice and rhythmic lyrics in a way reminiscent of John Coltrane playing saxophone as part of a jazz bebop quartet. It’s raw, it’s musical, and it’s poetic; in fact, it’s one of those albums that will be talked about many years from now for its impact on societal narratives.
InnerSpeaker by Tame Impala
Innerspeaker from Tame Impala is modern psychedelic rock at its finest. Combining Kevin Parker’s Lennon-esque vocals with perplexing melodies, curated and spacey guitar riffs, and adventurous sound design, Innerspeaker makes for an explosive sound that is hard to forget and tough not to love.
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
Even though Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was released in the 1990s, its influence is well represented in modern lo-fi indie rock from other indie acts like The White Stripes and The Strokes. Drawing inspiration from a reading of an Anne Frank story, this album is a beautiful interpretation of the joys of life juxtaposed with tragic endings. Its highs and lows are a great fit for any time and place, from rainy beach days to stirring summer nights.
Nevermind by Nirvana
Despite his tragic early passing, Kurt Cobain’s influence on music is alive and well. The grungy Nirvana trio consisted of Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and now Foo Fighter-frontman Dave Grohl, who, for a short period of time, unwittingly created a cultural shift into the grunge-era of the 1990s. This is the album that showcases cuts such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom,” “Lithium,” and the famous “Come As You Are” — a phrase that still welcomes visitors in Aberdeen, Washington, the place where the trio came together.
Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest
Similarly to Nirvana’s impact on their respective genre in the ’90s, A Tribe Called Quest was ushering in its own course in the rap and R&B world. Even for non-hip-hop fans, Midnight Marauders puts forth a plethora of great musical moments through free-spirited lyrics, funky bass lines, and meticulously smooth samples.
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