While some may relish in the digital age of music streaming, there’s much enmity towards the like of Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora. In this “dying age of music,” there is one medium of music sales that is rising in popularity: vinyl albums.
An 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, having a vinyl record collection can be enjoyed 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 all have our own taste. However, our list of the 18 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, don’t let our list dictate your entire collection. If you want to make Michael Jackson’s Bad or Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of the Town 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 eclipsing 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 from 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 its alter-ego record, which follows the life of Sgt. Pepper, indubitably 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 (the author’s) favorites to this day. His trumpeteering 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 inner 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.
‘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 realness, 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 work from Mr. Cash (and 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 hard 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 mundane bass lines, making for a unique and defining piece of ’70s studio rock.
‘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 standard 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 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. Most audiophiles of every generation can appreciate Aja for this exact reason. Although the LP only consists of seven total songs, it’s a shoo-in among the 18 vinyl albums every man should own for their home collection.
‘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, keys, synths, you name it, which are littered throughout lasting hits like “Higher Ground” and “Living for the City.”
‘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, as well as 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 high-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 were ushering in their own course in the rap and R&B world. Even for non-hip-hop fans, Midnight Marauders puts forth a plethora of musical greatness through free-spirited lyrics, funky bass lines, and meticulously smooth samples.
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