Record making techniques were upgraded and improved throughout the decades, but there’s no room for arguments about the following statement – some of the finest vinyl releases were made many years ago, and we’re now here to decide which ones are worthy to be considered the best sounding vinyl records of all time we think every serious vinyl collector should own.
With the coming of modern age, one would think that vinyl records were dead – truth is, they’re all but dead. Of course, playing your favorite tracks on your iPhone or your favorite mixtape on your PC/laptop is convenient, but most audiophiles can agree on one thing – playing your music on record players is the best way to hear your music.
We’re here today to discuss my favorite albums that you absolutely need to own on vinyl – these are the albums that you just don’t really hear unless you hear them on vinyl.
The Greatest Sounding Vinyl Records of All Time
A Collectors Guide
1. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd is, perhaps, the biggest name in R&R history, and it’s only natural that we’re opening up with one of their greatest achievements. The artwork is simple, yet legendary, but the sound quality is what made the stars in this case. “The Dark side of the Moon” was recorded in 1972 and released just one year after and it lasts approximately 43 minutes
2. Led Zeppelin – III
Fans of Led Zeppelin are arguing which album was their best, but hardcore fans often state that “all of their works are masterpieces, there’s no such thing as the best Led Zeppelin album”.
Even though that might be so, their third album is, in our humble opinion, best sound-wise. It was recorded in 1970 and released in the same year, much alike Pink Floyd’s Dark side of the moon. Tangerine and Gallows Pole sound so breathtaking that you’ll be with us when we say that this might be the best sounding vinyl record of that time.
3. Michael Jackson – Thriller
We’re progressing up to the 80s with Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Michael was always controversial, and his blend of post-disco and funk simply had to come out right.
This vinyl was sold in millions of copies worldwide, and even though most people accredit this to Michael’s sheer name, audiophiles beg to differ – namely, The Thriller sounds so ahead of its time that it could easily pass as a legit quality record by today’s standards. It was recorded during the interval between April and November 1982 and was released in November the same year.
4. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath, along with the infamous Ozzy Osbourne are heavy metal pioneers from England – we’ve all heard about them, some of us have seen them live, but only the handful few have had the privilege to listen to their “Black Sabbath” vinyl record.
There are numerous controversies about how this record was actually recorded, but most sources claim that all members of the band have entered separate rooms and started jamming out the legendary riffs from The Wizzard, N.I.B, and Behind the Wall of Sleep. The sound quality of this record isn’t exactly pitch-perfect, but it’s clearly distinguishable and exquisite, to say the very least.
5. Van Halen – 1984
Eddie Van Halen’s sixth studio album bears the title of 1984 (after the year when it was released), and it was recorded in 5150 Studios in California. Ted Templeman did a very fine job with producing and editing, but it was essentially Eddie who devised a way to make you “Jump” out of “Panama” while he was “Hot for Teacher”.
Generally, this vinyl record sounds great, maybe a bit too commercial, but we would expect nothing less from the father of glam rock.
6. Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell
We’ve already mentioned the big guys when we covered “Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath”, but it felt oddly uncomfortable to leave out Dio out of the picture, especially since he passed away a couple years back.
Heaven and Hell vinyl has more meaning than ever, and it’s safe to say that this is the best sounding vinyl record released during the early 80s. The instruments appear more precise, the vibes are in traditional Sabbath style, but Dio’s voice is what makes this piece of art so unique, so transparent. If you never got the chance, we highly advise that you check it out.
7. Beatles – Revolver
The Beatles – four Englishmen who ignited a rock and roll revolution across the globe. Sifting through their numerous vinyl records, we’ve discovered that it was all too hard to pluck out one that sounds better than the rest.
The “Rubber Soul” has the rhythm, “Help!” has the energy, and who can escape the sweet nostalgia “Abbey Road” brings? Anyhow, we’ve decided that “Revolver” has it all – the sound quality is on point, especially if we consider the fact that this album was recorded in 1966.
8. Johnny Cash – At San Quentin
Johnny Cash had a plethora of hits – his singles were #1 for decades, albums are still cherished, but the truth is that he knew how to touch one’s soul when he performed live.
The “At San Quentin” represents his live performance at State Prison of San Quentin in February of 1969, and no man, woman or child could be left unmoved by his domineering presence, soft-spoken voice, and golden fingers. This vinyl record is most certainly not for the faint of heart, as tracks contained within are so pure that you’ll be drowning in tears sooner than later.
9. Johnny Cash – All Aboard The Blue Train
We couldn’t leave out the big Johnny – this legend has rocked his way through bluesy tracks which later evolved to what we now know as “rockabilly”. We’re proud to present you with “All Aboard the Blue Train” – the 14th album by one of the greatest musicians of all time.
Even though it was recorded in 1958, it was only released in 1962, but we’re referring to the re-issued edition which came to be on 9th September of 2003. Johhny’s Blue Train, Train of Love, and Folsom Prison Blues make us wonder whether trains are actually as sad as he portrays them, or do they become so after listening to the tracks?
10. Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden
We’ve saved the best for last – it’s easy to close down the curtain in style with Iron Maiden. England houses some of the finest musicians the world has ever seen, and Maidens come to mind whenever Beatles and Sabbath are mentioned.
Iron Maiden’s self-titled album is a rock/metal masterpiece – the vocals don’t erupt through the speakers even though they’re incredibly high, the guitars sound perfect (even though there are three of them), and who would’ve thought that such a great sound could be found and achieved during the early 80s? Make sure to own this record, even if it costs you an arm and a leg.
11. Deep purple – Deepest Purple vinyl
Deep Purple’s been one of the most influential rock bands of all time, and it’s no surprise that they simply sound better on vinyl records where there’s absolutely no compression. The guitars here fill richer, the bass deeper, and the vocals are just pure gold.
You’ll find some of their finest hits on the ‘Deepest Purple’ such as the ‘Fireball’, ‘Burn’, ‘Highway Star’, and of course, the legendary ‘Smoke On The Water’. Regardless of whether you’re a rock fan or prefer other music genres, the ‘Deepest Purple’ is undoubtedly a must have for everyone.
12. Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Trilogy
Yngwie’s the ‘Fury’, the ‘Viking’, and most importantly, he’s the ‘Fire’ in the heavy metal world. Although some of his music might be a little bit on the harder side for non-rock or metal fans, it’s a given that he’s one of the most proficient guitarists of his time.
The reason why you need his ‘Trilogy’ on vinyl format is because you’ll get to experience some of the most profound licks, absurdly emotional solos, and overall – the most complete musical compositions heavily influenced by classical and neo-classical genres.
13. Alice Cooper – Greatest Hits
Alice is well known among music nerds for being a brilliant composer, a one-of-a-kind showman, and beyond that his music somehow appeals to everyone. However, digitalized formats tend to bite in from his flair, which is why we strongly suggest that you give his ‘Greatest Hits’ a try.
There’s simply no living being that hasn’t banged their head with his ‘School’s out’, but this vinyl also contains some of his hidden gems, such as Elected, Under My Wheels, Desperado, and Is It My Body. Though it’s not mainstream per se, you’ll most definitely grow to love it.
14. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced
Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Experience’ can be considered as an educational record more than anything. This rock god’s got the groove, the vibe, and somewhat devilish technique on the guitar that simply can’t be captured on a compressed MP3 format.
Sing along the ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Purple Haze’, ‘Love or Confusion’, and ‘Fire’, along numerous other hits, such as ‘Are you Experienced?’, ‘Foxey Lady’, ‘Third Stone From The Sun’, ‘May This Be Love’, and many others.
15. Queen – Self Titled Vinyl
Queen, alongside all of the individual members has set the bar for how music should be made, and it would be sacrilege to listen to their songs in any other format than vinyl. What’s more, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ movie just came out recently, so there’s no better way to enjoy it than by warming up with one of the greatest vinyl records of all time – Queen’s ‘Queen’.
This particular vinyl has some of the less-known songs that you simply need to hear, such as ‘My Fairy King’, ‘The Night Comes Down’, ‘Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll’, ‘Jesus’, and ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’. Pay respects to the late rock and roll titan and give a listen to what these wonderful people have made.
With the coming of modern age, one would think that vinyl records are dead – they’re all but. Of course that playing your favorite tracks on iPhone or your favorite mixtape on PC/laptop is convenient, but most audiophiles can agree on one thing – playing your music on record players is the real deal.
We’re here today to discuss 19 albums that you absolutely need to own on vinyl – it would be a sacrilege to play these tunes on any other platform, so if you’re ready, let’s begin.
16. Beatles – Revolver
We’re starting off with a classy one. Beatles were and are, by far, the single most popular band on the whole planet. If you have the opportunity and cash, it would be best if you owned all of their work on vinyl, but if not, Revolver shouldn’t be skipped, even if you never liked Beatles in the first place.
This album was (among other things) the reason why the Beatles earned so much fame – even though it features only about 35 minutes of playtime, there are 14 groundbreaking tracks, such as the Taxman, She Said She Said, and the ever so famous Doctor Robert which will melt you down.
17. Black Keys – Thickfreakness
People who like mellow rock combined with groovy piano backs should check Black Keys out. These guys aren’t as young as the Beatles, but they’ve done an amazing job with this one. In fact, it’s their second release which lasts approximately 39 minutes and 12 tracks, including the Jap Bonus Track called “Evil”.
18. Black Sabbath – Master of Reality
Master of reality is easily the most favourite album of nearly all Black Sabbath fans. Every single song is a masterpiece, and things like Solitude and Into the Void shouldn’t be played on anything but vinyl.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget the “Children of the Grave” – a song that cemented Black Sabbath’s reputation as one of the most innovative bands ever. If you have the chance, stock up on every BS vinyl you can – these guys have dozens of albums, and picking “the best one” is a very tricky job.
19. The White Stripes – Get Behind me Satan
Although the title of this album is a bit controversial, the White Stripes gained a lot of fame from it. This is a fifth album by this amazing American rock band, and you’ll be able to enjoy some 44 minutes of pure groove with Red Rain, Instinct Blues, and White Moon.
20. Prince – Purple Rain
Prince’s passing was a shock to every little soul who knew how big of an impact he made on the music scene. That’s all the more reason why it would be a great way to honour his memory by getting one of his finest works – the Purple Rain. With 43 minutes of new wave r&B, The Beautiful Ones, Purple Rain, and Father’s Song will rock your turntable.
21. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
A classic, if there’s one, The Dark Side of the Moon is one of the most memorable and important albums ever written, even if we’re to discount the fact that it was made by the masters of music themselves. Every note, every track on this album sounds differently when you play it on a turntable, so if you want to see this pure masterpiece from the right angle, make sure to get it on vinyl.
22. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III
Zeppelin’s have made history with every album they’ve released. For some, it’s the I, others like II, but we think that Led Zeppelin III is the thing you don’t want to miss out on. Friends, Out on the Tiles, Since I’ve Been Loving You – these are the moments turntables pay off.
23. Johnny Cash – Unchained
Johnny isn’t just a relic of the past. With the “Unchained” he proved that he can still do rock and blues, even though he’s gotten a bit older. This album is very interesting because it features guest appearances, including RHCP’s Flea, Mick Fleetwood, and Lindsay Buckingham. Lasts for 41 minutes, and we guarantee that a record player’s reproduction will make them worth the memory.
24. Bob Dylan – Desire
Bob’s “Desire” was, perhaps, to share his mellow rock with the world, and ours is to advise you to try out his albums on vinyl players. This album is universally good, and it’s safe to say that you’ll like it regardless of what music genres you prefer.
25. Iron Maiden – Killers
We’ve saved something heavy for the end. Iron Maiden’s Killers is an old release from this British heavy metal band, and it’s albums like these that show us how differently the music sounds when played on a CD and when played on a record player. Even if you don’t like metal or rock, the “Killers” are worth checking out.
26. The Rolling Stones – Aftermath
The Stones are in league with Sabbath, Beatles, and Judas Priest, that much is certain. However, the reason why we recommend checking this album out is because it simply sounds a bit too bland on any other format.
You will enjoy songs like ‘Doncha Bother Me’, ‘I am Waiting’, ‘Take it or leave it’, and ‘what to do’ atop of ‘Stupid Girl’, ‘Mother’s little helper’, ‘Under my thumb’, ‘Flight 505’, High and Dry’, and more.
Objectively speaking, there’s not a single band out there that’s been together as long as they did, and if you even remotely wish to figure out what they were up to with this album, we strongly recommend checking the ‘Aftermath’ out.
27. Pink Floyd – Meddle
Most people assume that Pink Floyd started out their career with ‘The Dark Side of the moon’, but as most band members claim, they’ve actually begun their magnum opus even before it. The ‘Meddle’ record is meant for people who dig the Pink Floyd sound and who want to get acquainted with what the band has done prior to reaching world fame.
28. Metallica – The Black Album
Regardless of whether you’re a rock, metal, pop, or even a country lover, you know Metallica and you know what they stand for. The ‘Black album’ is characterized with impeccable technical performance which simply can’t be covered in a CD or DVD format. The ‘Black Album’ on vinyl sounds exactly as it was meant to be.
29. Madonna – True Blue
After a couple of world-class rock records, it’s time to shift a bit towards the old-but-gold pop culture. Madonna is, apart from being among the most famous singers out there, a person that simply knew how to reach out and touch the souls of her fans, so having the ‘True Blue’ on vinyl will help you figure out how she’s done just that.
30. Frank Zappa – Jazz from hell
You either love Zappa or you don’t, there’s no middle ground, but as a matter of actual fact, you can’t say you’re into jazz if you haven’t heard his ‘Jazz from hell’ record.
‘Damp Ankles’, ‘G-Spot Tornado’ and ‘Night School’ are some of the songs on this controversial record that you simply need to hear on vinyl in order to appreciate the detail of his virtuostic genius.
31. John Lennon – Mind Games
The Beatles are, without any doubt, the band that had started the rock and roll evolution, and if there’s someone who deserves the credit for it more than most, it’s Lennon.
His solo record ‘Mind Games’ has very versatile catalogue of songs, including ‘Intuition’, ‘Meat City’, ‘You Are Here’, ‘Only People’, ‘Bring On The Lucie’ and such, so for every Beatles fan out there, this one’s a no brainer.
32. Devin Townsend – Addicted
Devin earned his fame with the metal band called Strapping Young Lad, but what he did with his solo project appeals to fans of ‘music’ in its purest form.
He combines elements of various and mightily diverse music genres, so it’s safe to say that whatever music you’re listening to, you’ll find something to your liking on ‘Addicted’, with songs like ‘Resolve!’, ‘Awake!!’, Bend it like Bender!’ and ‘In-Ah!’, you’ll feel the hype he wanted to inspire in his listeners.
33. Dio – Last in Line
Late Ronnie James Dio is easily one of the most influential rock musicians of all time, and what better way to pay homage to him than to own his last record on vinyl – the ‘Last in Line’.
Interestingly enough, the remainder of his band (Vinny Appice and Vivian Campbell) continued on with his legacy, naming the band after this record. Songs like ‘One Night in the City’, ‘We rock’, and, of course ‘The Last in Line’ can be heard on this album.
34. Michael Jackson – Got to be there
The ‘Got the be there’ was Michael’s debut album, and in fact it sold out pretty great with a bit over 3 million sold copies.
It’s a great, ‘easy read’ so to speak, and if you happen to love MJ’s music, you should give it a try on vinyl where it shines the brightest. This record includes songs such as ‘I wanna be where you are’, ‘rocking robin’, ‘girl don’t take your love from me’, ‘in our small way’ ,and more.
35. Sade – Diamond Life
The smooth and sultry Sade, adored by a sophisticated cult following of soulful jazz and pop aficionados, is hailed as one of the greatest British female vocalists of all time. ‘Diamond Life’, her 1984 debut album produced alongside British band Pride, won the 1985 Brit Award for Best British Album and became one of the best selling debut records of the 80’s. It eventually achieved multi-platinum success around the world. It is now considered her greatest achievement as well as one of the best albums of the 1980’s.
‘Diamond Life’ is respected for its slick production quality and eclectic mix of soul, jazz, funk, and pop. With predominant themes about the positive and negative relationships revolving around love, Paul Lester of the BBC characterized Sade’s haunting vocals as being “deliberately icy and aloof”, floating effortlessly over complex jazzy textures, arresting basslines, and subtle guitar rhythms.
“Smooth Operator”, “Your Love Is King”, and “Sally” are some of the standout highlights of the album. ‘Diamond Life’ is a high quality re-issue with excellent vinyl quality and sound recording. An essential collection for lovers and couples alike.
36. Phil Collins – No Jacket Required
It seems like everything Phil Collins touches turns to platinum or gold. One of the quintessential voices of 80’s pop rock, the prolific singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (known as the singer/drummer of rock band Genesis and for his solo career) has produced dozens of UK and US Top 40 singles and is widely considered to be “one of the most successful pop and adult contemporary singers of the ‘80s and beyond”.
No Jacket Required, the third studio album by Phil Collins (6x Platinum), is his most commercially successful and critically-acclaimed release. It won three Grammy Awards including Album of the Year in 1986. “Sussudio”, “One More Night”, “Take Me Home”, and “Don’t Lose My Number” were released as singles from the album and all were top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Although the album content spans a broad range of topics and stylistic nuances, everyone agrees that No Jacket Required is Collins’ most liked album – even among fans who found his previous work disagreeable. David Fricke in a Rolling Stone review wrote, “His effortless graft of bright white-R&B bounce to quirky, unexpected melodies is instinctively commercial but never feels overly contrived.”
The remastering is superbly done and sounds amazing to this day.
37. John Coltrane – My Favorite Things
My Favorite Things is the seventh studio album from one of the most important jazz figures of all time. The first album featuring Coltrane on the soprano sax, the record was released in 1960 and became a big commercial success – receiving the Grammy Hall of Fame award and eventually attaining gold status, having sold over 500,000 copies.
The album’s genre can be characterized by Coltrane’s signature style of modal jazz and masterful improvisation. The uniqueness of this album draws inspiration from the Rodgers and Hammerstein song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Documentarian Ed Wheeler describes how influential the song was to Coltrane and how he “transformed the cheerful populist song into a hypnotic eastern dervish dance.” Coltrane acknowledges the main melody numerous times throughout the album often with extended solos over tonic chords.
38. Massive Attack – Mezzanine
A genius, landmark release from the world of trip-hop and electronica with some of the most memorably synthetic sounds from the late 90’s, Mezzanine is the timeless masterpiece from the influential electronic music duo Massive Attack.
Mezzanine draws musical influence from rock, dub, new wave, and hip hop. These diverse influences allowed the group to expand well beyond their typical trip hop sound into a universal blend of electronica that garnered them huge pop culture success. Several of the album’s songs have been used repeatedly in movie soundtracks, commercials, and video broadcasting.
Dark and melancholic undercurrents mark this album’s deep tone, with very textured and abstract ambient sounds interspersed with hauntingly beautiful female vocals.
This LP album has been mastered very well and sounds better than the digital CD version.
39. Ravi Shankar – Three Ragas
The Hindustani classical musician Ravi Shankar, best known globally for his exquisite sitar raga music, was a hugely influential composer in the second half of the 20th century. Known as the “Sitar maestro”, he developed a distinct style that drew the attention of many listeners and fellow musicians from around the world (including The Beatles).
The Three Ragas LP is considered an excellent album to introduce listeners to the sound and style of classical Indian music. Composed of three epic tracks, or “ragas”, each running from ten to thirty minutes long. This album, released in 1956, is perfect for relaxing on a meditative Sunday afternoon
40. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Shahen Shah
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the late Pakistani singer of Qawwali, was a man of extraordinary emotion and intensity. His incredibly powerful voice transcended boundaries and inspired spiritual ecstasy within audiences around the world. Known for his captivating and hypnotic vocal performances, his singing embodied the form of Sufi Islamic devotional music passed down over 600 years. His vocal range and ability is considered one the greatest ever recorded. He shared his onstage presence with an ensemble of rhythmic percussionists, string players, and supporting vocalists to create an otherworldly experience for his audience.
This LP has been reissued in high resolution. If you haven’t heard this legends voice, Shahen Shah is a great introduction for the uninitiated.
41. Paul Simon – Graceland (25th Anniversary Edition)
Cited by critics as one of the greatest albums of all time, Graceland features a wonderfully eclectic mix of rock, pop, folk, worldbeat, and traditional South African styles like isicathamiya and mbaqanga. The release won the 1987 Grammy Award for Album of the Year and was later inducted into the National Recording Registry for its cultural and historic significance.
It was South African township music that inspired Simon to visit Johannesburg and record music with local musicians to be included in Graceland. In the process, Simon was criticized for ignoring the cultural boycott practiced by most of the world in opposition of the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Graceland has been praised for being an engaging piece of experimental and inspirational work – a masterpiece of great originality that reflects on how people live in a changing world.
42. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
This was the 11th studio album by American soul singer Marvin Gaye and probably his most treasured by fans and society as a whole. A brilliant narrative about the contemporary climate of 1971, the album has a “song cycle” structure in which each song flows into the next expressed through the perspective of a returning Vietnam War veteran. The album promoted awareness of social injustice, hatred, poverty, and ecological issues – making it strikingly relevant to listeners today. Some critics describe the style as being a cross between Curtis Mayfield and classic Motown.
The album became a huge commercial success upon release and is regarded as a quintessential soul classic today. Rolling Stone ranked it 6th on its list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time stating that it “revolutionized black music”.
43. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Issue (New Stereo Mix)
If you’re a Beatles fan then you probably consider this album to be the band’s greatest release and you may even claim it to be the best rock album ever recorded. Critically acclaimed for being innovative in production and songwriting, the eighth studio album by the Beatles won four Grammy awards in 1968, including Album of the Year, and dominated UK and US music charts for several months.
What critics enjoy the most about this artistic masterpiece is how it defied musical convention and influenced numerous upcoming genres (punk, new wave, grunge, metal) through its progressive experimentation of sounds and album formatting. In some ways it can be called one of the first true “concept albums” that inspired musicians to express themselves as individual artists rather than fulfilling a studio’s vision of what their music should sound like.
44. The Who – Tommy LP
Tommy is a double-album rock opera that tells the story of a “deaf, dumb, and blind” boy named Tommy Walker. It received mixed praise upon release with some critics hailing it as a masterpiece while others felt it was distasteful and pretentious. Still, most critics agree it is The Who’s breakthrough album and features many powerful and innovative hard rock songs about late 1960’s pop culture. Ultimately, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its “historical, artistic and significant value.” As of 2012, the album has sold 20 million copies worldwide.
45. Beastie Boys – Check Your Head
The most instrumental and least sample-laden studio production by this American hip hop group, Check Your Head was originally released in 1992 and re-released in 2009. The album solidified the Beastie Boys as one of the most popular American hip hop groups of the 90’s and gained them an avid cult following.
Check Your Head was critically acclaimed and is considered the “most unconventional” release by the Beastie Boys. The album showcases a versatile blend of genres ranging from punk-rap, alt rock, jazz, and rap rock. Some of the groups most popular tracks include “Pass the Mic” and “So Wat’cha Want”. Fans will acknowledge how the boys seemingly returned to their punk roots throughout Check Your Head. Fantastic cameo appearances by Money Mark give this album a big boost of attitude and style.
46. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Miles Davis does not need an introduction. He is arguably one of the greatest and most influential jazz musicians of all time. Kind of Blue is widely considered as the greatest jazz record ever recorded. It features other all-time greats like John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Jimmy Cobb. The album was released in 1959 and has influenced jazz, rock, and classical music artists ever since. It is the masterpiece of which Miles Davis is universally honored.
Kind of Blue is almost entirely expressed in the modal style of jazz (unlike previous hard bop style productions). It is composed of sophisticated improvisations and complex chord progressions. Each performing artist on the album was given a unique set of scales to improvise their modal style. The result was an artistic masterpiece that many thought was the pinnacle of modal jazz.
47. Eagles – Hotel California
Hotel California is one of the best selling albums ever having sold over 32 million copies worldwide. It is also ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time.
The album was conceptualized around the mystique and mythology of California. It explores many themes such as the perils of fame, loss of innocence, illusion versus reality, and the dark side of the American dream. “Hotel California” is one of the most popular songs ever recorded. The album symbolizes what the band truly stood for and was regarded as “the focal point of their lives at that time” by its founding member Don Henley.
48. Bruce Springsteen – The River
Another monumental legend, Bruce Springsteen’s fifth studio album was the icon’s only double album. It was also The Boss’ first album to go straight to #1 on the Billboard 200. The title track was nominated at the 1982 Grammy Awards and “Hungry Heart” was his first U.S. pop singles top ten song.
The River is a classic album that is best described by music reviewer Paul Hewitt as, “taking a trip through the rock ‘n’ roll heartland as you’ve never experienced it. It’s a walkdown all the streets, all the places, all the people and all the souls that rock has ever visited, excited, cried for and loved.”
Such remarkable praise indeed.
49. Nirvana – Nevermind
Nevermind is the album that made Nirvana one of the most influential rock bands of all time. It has sold over 30 million copies worldwide and played a massive part in bringing alt rock and grunge music to the masses. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is one of the most popular alternative rock songs ever recorded and is responsible for widely exposing the album to critics after its release. In 1992, Nevermind replaced Michael Jackson at the top of the Billboard charts.
Technically, the album’s music can be characterized as primarily power chords with pop hooks and dissonant guitar riffs. The music and melodies were more important than the lyrics according to lead singer Kurt Cobain. The result was a more sophisticated alt rock album than many of its peers at the time.
The album was inducted into the National Recording Registry for its cultural significance, one of the few grunge albums to be honored in such a manner.
50. Moby – Play
Moby is one of the most successful electronic music artists of all time and Play is the album that introduced him to a worldwide audience. The album has sold more than 12 million copies and is certified platinum in over 20 countries. Rolling Stone ranks Play in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Play is a masterful blend of electronica, breakbeat, ambient, blues and folk music. Critics describe how it balanced the “breakbeat techno evolution of the 90’s” with masterful blues and roots influences that reinvigorated contemporary listeners. Other disparate genres include gospel, hip hop, and disco. One of the most popular singles, “Honey”, featured repeated vocal samples by the great Bessie Jones. Consequently, numerous songs on Play were licensed for a wide variety of commercial use thus marking the album as one of the most recognizable electronica releases ever by music aficionados.
51. Dr. Dre – The Chronic LP
Frenetic, high energy beats and a ton of attitude barely do justice in describing this landmark album that exploded west coast hip hop artists Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg into the popular conscience. Widely considered as one of the most well-produced hip hop albums ever and one of the most influential albums of the 90’s, The Chronic is an epic album reflecting the life and struggles of young African-Americans living in urban environments at the time.
Extremely raw, seething with rage and virtuoso confidence, the album is hailed as a standard for the west coast style of hip hop and a masterpiece of innovative sampling, funky rhythms, and instrumental beat production. It is popular for glamorizing gangster life and accentuating the “smoke-filled” vibes experienced by its listeners. A must-have record for any hip hop enthusiast.
52. Kenny Rogers – The Gambler
The late, great Kenny Rogers was a country music icon having sold over 100 million records in his lifetime. He produced dozens of #1 hit songs over a span of thirty years. His most well known work is without a doubt the hit song “The Gambler” released on the album of the same name. It was so popular that people from Jamaica to Korea recognized the name Kenny Rogers as the man behind “The Gambler”.
The album has sold over 35 million copies as a result of the title track’s immense popularity. The single also won the Grammy award for Song of the Year in 1980. The relatability of Kenny Rogers’ lyrics is why people from all over the world feel they have a sense of connection with his music. He brought country music to the popular masses and his down-to-earth array of musical styles traversed country, pop, folk, and rock.
53. Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
The most “effortless and ambitious” album by this folk rock duo includes two of their most critically acclaimed songs, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “The Boxer” — both included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (the LP was voted #51 on the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list). The album also earned two Grammy Awards and was a global success.
Bridge Over Troubled Water broke away from the duo’s traditional musical style to include an inspirational array of rock, gospel, jazz, R&B, and pop. The record is notable for its brilliant sound engineering. It was mixed in stereo and quadraphonic. Smooth and delicately textured, emboldened by forceful melodies, the album incorporates sounds and rhythms that seem to traverse the styles of the 60’s and 70’s. An all-time classic.
54. Santana – Abraxas
Abraxas is often praised by audiophiles for being immensely pleasurable to play on quadraphonic equipment and is definitely the most classic album by this incredibly successful Latin rock band. The album title comes from a passage in Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian:
“We stood before it and began to freeze inside from the exertion. We questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it: We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our
beloved, called it Abraxas…”
With such an interesting reference that inspired the album’s title, it’s no surprise the band explored a plethora of musical styles ranging from jazz fusion and blues to psychedelic rock and samba. Abraxas is preserved in the National Recording Registry for being deemed “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”
55. Joni Mitchell – Blue
This remarkable album is considered by some critics to be the greatest album ever recorded by a woman. It is ranked 30th on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (which also happens to be the highest ranking by a female artist) and has garnered numerous accolades. Released in 1971, Blue is the fourth album by folk rock heroine Joni Mitchell which examines the complex facets of relationships that touch on themes of love, infatuation, and insecurity.
Blue is respected by critics for its beautiful balance of songwriting, voicework,and instrumental composition that highlight simple arrangements on piano, guitar, and other traditional string instruments used in folk music. The album is a wonderful blend of folk-rock and pop.
56. Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Sir Elton John does not need much of an introduction. This legendary and prolific icon is still shaking up audiences to this day with no end in sight to a career that has spanned over 50 years during which over 300 million records have been sold.
Released as a double LP in 1973, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is regarded as Elton’s best release and consequently best-selling studio album with over 30 million copies sold. It features many highly popular songs like “Candle in the Wind”, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, and “Bennie and the Jets”. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is perhaps the greatest expression of Sir Elton John’s incredible musical talents and unique style of pop rock/glam rock.
57. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the the Key of Life (Triple Vinyl)
The culminating and most critically acclaimed album of Wonder’s “classic” period (during which he produced up to 6 studio albums), Songs in the Key of Life was also the biggest recording deal in history at the time. The album is a wonderful variety of pop, funk, R&B, soul, and jazz which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Pop Albums Chart. It also won Album of the Year at the 1977 Grammy Awards.
The album was such a commercial success due in part to its relatable lyrics about faith and love. Stevie Wonder included recollections of his childhood and past relationships. He also brought awareness about poverty and social injustice which were pressing societal issues at the time. Songs in the Key of Life is often cited as a gold standard that has influenced many contemporary artists, including Sir Elton John who claims it to be his favorite album of all time.
58. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Initially received with mixed reactions in the U.S. in 1966, Pet Sounds had a much more exciting and critically acclaimed reception in the U.K. The album was lauded for its bold and sophisticated music. Remarkably, the album was promoted as “the most progressive pop album ever” and is widely considered as one of the most influential albums in history.
The album can be characterized as progressive pop with psychedelic, avant-garde, and art rock influences. It featured instruments never before associated with rock music like french horns, flutes, and bells. Pet Sounds is one of the earliest “concept albums” and progressed the ideas of music production through its incorporation of various instruments which made it virtually impossible to replicate in a live concert setting. Not surprisingly, Pet Sounds is included in the National Recording Registry for its cultural and aesthetic significance.
59. U2 – War
U2 is another band hardly needing an introduction for contemporary music aficionados. War is their third studio album and definitely the most politically charged. Released during the tumultuous early 80’s, the album is a loud political statement about warfare and its emotional effects on society. The release was a big commercial success and supplanted Michael Jackson’s Thriller at the top of the UK album charts.
Rolling Stone described the album’s greatest strengths as reflected by its “well-honed musical arrangements and carefully balanced dynamics.” War showcases some of the era’s most sophisticated guitar lines by the group’s famed lead guitarist The Edge. A highly melodic and powerful statement of the album’s subject matter, War is considered an all-time classic.
60. UB40 – Signing Off
Featuring a mix of reggae and dub, Signing Off is considered the best album by this British reggae band, despite a couple of their most popular songs (“Red Red Wine” and “Falling In Love With You”) having been released on subsequent albums.
Signing Off is a politically-concerned album that resonated with listeners at a time when political strife, war, and economic hardship were widespread. Musically, the album is heavily dub-influenced and an example of how West Indian music influenced Western pop at the time through reggae and ska. The album is very instrumental featuring four tracks without lyrics and laden with fantastic reggae rhythms and reverb/echo effects.
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