It is what the true music fan aspires to own. Call it vintage, nostalgic, hip or alternative; no matter how you wax it, vinyl is in. In so deep, that for the first time since the inception of the Compact Disc, ‘record sales’ for any album have not reached over 1 million sold – not even for the beloved Beyoncè. Oh sad face 🙁 But, vinyl sales – the proper record – are ever increasing. The digital and the analog are squeezing out the old laser disc in perfect vintage-meets-modern harmony. This is maybe not what we all totally expected to happen, but for Pete’s sake it is freaking awesome!So, as vinyl is taking over, stop second guessing yourself and dig out that old Sears automatic out of Grandaddy’s attic and get to spinning! It is time music freaks. Time for my Top 10 essential rock albums you must own on vinyl from the past to the present. Obviously there are way too many records to make a final top 10 list, but this is merely a launching pad. This is of course my humble opinion (and researched educated guesses), but it will be a good place for any wax rookie to get started!
The Top 10 Essential Vinyl Rock Records
#10 – Steve Miller Band – Greatest Hits 1974-78
The first vinyl record that I bought. Rock, blues, great guitar work, and classic hits that are American as baseball and cheap beer. If you happen to score the original pressed release of this gem hold on to it! You can still hear 1970’s rock and roll reminding us that we ruined pure music by letting some bands get a record deal… You know who you are. “Fly Like An Eagle” is especially cool to admire in full vinyl track glory.
#9 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – By The Way
Yes yes. Get all the Red Hot Chili Peppers on vinyl, but a song like “This Is the Place” just cannot be justified fully if not heard through the needle. The same is true for the whole record, as it is maybe their deepest, and records like these strengthen the higher quality audio experience that spinning offers.
#8 – Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is monstrously reason enough to own this one. I personally found this and Dark Side of the Moon at a yard sale for $1.00 each; both originals. Any Pink Floyd is stellar and fills your room with atmospheric bliss, but this record never ever tires from going round and round.
#7 – Metallica – …And Justice For All
Perhaps too popular of a choice, but it is songs like “One” that make us addicted to collecting those big round black discs. You hear the gunfire pop off the track, and as that soft dark riff vibrates through…yes!! The way old school metal music was meant to be played through your home stereo. 180 grams fast and loud at 33 or 45 RPM!
#6 – Johnny Cash – Ain’t No Grave
There are few recordings that truly haunt. This record was released well after the great Johnny Cash passed on from this earth, so it is truly like listening to the voice of a ghost. And because these songs were tracked not long before his death, his frail and simple voice will send cold shivers down your spine. On vinyl this is really a one of a kind musical experience that you just would not get with previous Cash records, although all are special and amazing. Take note that on each song you will hear the unique cracks of dryness coming from the depths of Cash’s throat as he struggles to leave us his beloved legacy on record.
#5 – Brand New – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
“Jesus Christ” is perhaps one of the most satisfying and engaging rock songs, and on vinyl it amplifies it into the next level of goodness. This whole classic album permeates your space with musical crush as it spins. If you are lucky enough to score a re-issue then you will appreciate Brand New in a whole new way. An essential to collect for your modern rock vinyl library, along with the rest of the Brand New catalogue (but good luck finding them in stock or for a price lower than a tank of gas).
#4 – Refused – The Shape of Punk To Come
All modern post-punk can pretty much credit this album as “THE INFLUENCER.” Littered with electro samples, poetry, and riffs that make you scream, this giant cult classic really comes to life on the turntable. Of course “New Noise” is the one everyone wants to hear, but “Liberation Frequency” builds into a wonderful moment on this record as well. Some vinyl copies come with the Refused documentary as well, plus the CD copy.
#3 – Wovenwar – Wovenwar
This blurs the lines between metal and rock, but nonetheless this album crushes and destroys in so many ways. Backed by the ultra-talented former As I Lay Dying musicians and fronted by Shane Blay (Oh, Sleeper), this is a powerhouse band whose album should be played in its full vinyl glory! “The Mason” and “Prophets” respectively will be worth the price for this heavy rock piece of quality.
#2 – Thrice – Major/Minor
If you are a dedicated Thrice fan you may disagree with this album ending up on the list over Vheissu, but I believe this last effort encompasses all of their strengths. “Promises” and “Treading Paper” are ripe with high quality sonic fruit, and “Disarmed” will leave you speechless when its heard in pure analog loudness. Thrice’s discography is highly sought after in the vinyl collector’s world, so if you happen to get a chance to purchase this one, don’t hesitate.
#1 – Pearl Jam – Ten
Few other vocalists have captured music fans the way Eddie Vedder has. His deep angelic vocal harmonies lift up off the grooved tracks in a way that just makes it all ok. This record is so classic, vintage, nostalgic, and modern all at once, and it will overflow your living space with deep sounds of bliss and vigor. Start here with your collection.
To get this on vinyl now you will most likely get the re-issue which includes Ten: Redux, so the higher quality of that only makes the vinyl experience much more invigorating. You will not hear “……Jereemyyy spoooke and……..” in a more satisfying medium than the vinyl version of this record!
Now, this small and humble list is really only a launching pad for those who may want to get on the ever growing boat of modern vinyl collectors. Hit up thrift stores, local record stores, artist’s websites and merch booths and everything in between to find those old and new favorites; because that is what collecting should be about. Celebrating the old classics that got us into music in the first place, to rocking out to all the brand new music that is thankfully mostly released on vinyl.
Have fun with it, throw vinyl listening parties, and jam on!
Please leave some comments on what you prefer to spin! I’d love to hear what you dig!
This Canadian grew up in the great state of Montana, so naturally punk and hardcore music served as a proper soundtrack to his early life. Now living in the arctic tundra he enjoys vinyl collecting, bearding, Canadian brew and long walks on the beach he makes up in his mind.