100 Essential Albums for Your Record Collection

Posted by Billy Gil, November 13, 2013 09:40am | Post a Comment

100 Essential Albums For Your Record Collection


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Starting a record collection? Or trying to round out the one you have? Here's a list of 100 records, in alphabetical order, that most people can agree are essential listens. I picked based on two criteria: essentialness and availability. If there's no reasonable way you can pick up the album in store at any given time (and for under $40), it's not on there. If you'd like to head straight to shopping, check out this handy feature at our online store. Enjoy!

Allman Brothers Band Live

The Allman Brothers Band Live At Filmore East (1971)

Hear pretty much the best guitar playing ever.




the b-52's lp amoebaThe B-52’s The B-52's (1979)

A crash landing of alien surf riffs, sci-fi trash nostalgia and punk attitude that sounded like nothing before it and doesn't sound like anything since.




the band music from big pink lpThe BandMusic From Big Pink (1968)

Oh hi The Band, everyone is still trying to be you in 2013—Mumfords, Fleets, Morning Jackets. Get back to the roots of soulful, bearded acoustic dude music.




beastie boys paul's boutique lpBeastie BoysPaul’s Boutique (1989)

A hip-hop classic and landmark in multilayer sampling.





Beach Boys Pet Sounds

The Beach BoysPet Sounds (1966)

The Beach Boys - Today! (1965)

Phil Spector invented the wall of sound, and The Beach Boys took that idea to its zenith on the perfect Pet Sounds. Meanwhile, Today is the best of the hit Beach Boys albums. Smiles forever.


the beatles abbey road lp amoeba

The Beatles - Abbey Road (1970)

The Beatles - Let it Be (1970)

The Beatles - Rubber Soul (1965)

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

The Beatles - The White Album (1968)

Get all of the Beatles' albums, they've all been recently reissued.


big star #1 recordBig Star - #1 Record (1972) / Radio City (1974)

The CD era made these two albums by the cult power-pop band virtually indistinguishable from one another. Get 'em both and give 'em their due.




black sabbath lp amoeba

Black SabbathBlack Sabbath (1970)

The album that started it all for Ozzy and co. also helped launch metal as a genre.




david bowie ziggy stardust lpDavid Bowie - Ziggy Stardust (1972)

Eschewing the hard-to-find records (Low, Lodger, Heroes etc.) and the best-of Changes ones (which are both essential), this 2012 reissue of Bowie's glam-rock opus sounds amazing.




james brown live at the apollo lpJames BrownLive at the Apollo (1963)

The Godfather of Soul in all his raw glory, just a pure, visceral listening experience.





Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo

The Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968)

Ditto all the early, psychedelic stuff (find a used Greatest Hits if you can, to start), but this country-rock album is the most solid Byrds album.




captain beefheart trout mask replica lpCaptain Beefheart Trout Mask Replica (1969)

A mad classic!





the cars lpThe Cars - The Cars (1978)

Perhaps the quintissential new wave album.





Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison (1968)

I apologize if this album isn't available, and for the lack of country music in general on this list. In truth, classic country is the staple of bargain bins and thrift stores around the country, and classic country records from Cash, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and others help make for a great, affordable starter set.


the genius of ray charles lpRay CharlesThe Genius of Ray Charles (1959)

Swingin', life-affirming sounds.




the clash lp amoeba
The Clash
- The Clash (1977)

The ClashLondon Calling (1979)

The Clash are more than just a patch on a jacket, an emblem of punk and some radio hits. Pick up these records and immerse yourself in the legendary punk band.


john coltrane a love supreme lpJohn Coltrane A Love Supreme (1964)

Oh, you like "Mad Men" and being all suave in your big suits and pencil skirts? Put this on and you'll really be smooth, daddy-o.




creedence clearwater revival green river lpCreedence Clearwater Revival - Green River (1969)

A bargain-bin staple, but also one of the best rock albums ever.





Daft Punk Discovery

Daft Punk - Discovery (2001)

As they've shown with this year's superlative disco-prog-pop opus Random Access Memories, Daft Punk are one of the all-time great electronic groups (maybe second only to Kraftwerk, a group whose LPs can be frustratingly hard to find). Discovery is their best, full of huge, anthemic songs that seem to glow out of the speakers.


miles davis kind of blue lpMiles Davis Kind of Blue (1959)

This is a great place to start for jazz novices.





de la soul 3 feet high and rising lp amoeba
De La Soul
- 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)

A landmark of forward-thinking, psychedelic hip-hop.




dj shadow entroducing lpDJ ShadowEntroducting... (1996)

A '90s classic of bargain-bin record repurposing from a master sampler. The ultimate record-store record.




dr. dre the chronic lpDr. Dre The Chronic (1992)

Before he was more often known as a producer, Dr. Dre unleashed this gangsta rap classic.




nick drake pink moon lpNick Drake - Pink Moon (1972)

It's easy to crap on Volkswagen and Wes Anderson for using Nick Drake's music, but they helped introduce this sad, romantic masterpiece to a new generation of starry-eyed kids.




bob dylan highway 61 revisited lp amoeba
Bob Dylan
- Blood on the Tracks (1975)

Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

So much of modern music stems from Dylan, he's essential for any record collector.



the flaming lips the soft bulletin lpThe Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin (1999)

Or you could buy Zaireeka and four record players ...





fleetwood mac rumours lpFleetwood MacRumours (1976)

For pure pop glee, I'm not sure anyone has ever done it better than Rumours.





aretha franklin lady soul lpAretha FranklinLady Soul (1968)

A tossup between this and I Never Loved a Man The Way I Loved You, but really, you need both.





funkadelic maggot brain
Maggot Brain (1971)

Mind-expanding beyond reason, and with some of the best album art ever.




marvin gaye what's going on lpMarvin Gaye What’s Going On (1971)

A spiritual, strange, soulful trip.





al green let's stay together lpAl GreenLet’s Stay Together (1972)

Try breaking up when this is on!





the jimi hendrix experience are you experienced lpThe Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced? (1967)

Pick up the UK version to impress your friends.





Iggy and the Stooges Raw Power

Iggy & the StoogesRaw Power (1973)

A corrosive proto-punk tour de force that might split your speakers in two.




michael jackson thriller lpMichael Jackson Thriller (1982)

Yes! Also find Off the Wall, which some would say is even better!





elton john goodbye yellow brick road lpElton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

I finally got into Elton John and it was like, where have you been all my life?





robert johnson king of the delta lpRobert Johnson King of the Delta Blues: The Complete Recordings (1961)

Get your bearings on the birth of rock 'n' roll with this compilation of the legendary Robert Johnson's recordings.





janis joplin pearl lp amoeba
Janis Joplin
Pearl (1971)

One of the greatest white soul singers ever, gone too soon but left this singular statement.




joy division closer lpJoy Division - Closer (1980)

A haunting masterpiece that laid the framework for countless bands and genres to follow.





led zeppelin iv lpLed ZeppelinIV (1971)

Nearly every Led Zep album is essential; peruse the bargain bins to find the first four in particular.





john lennon imagine lpJohn Lennon Imagine (1971)

You can't possibly hate Yoko Ono after hearing "Oh Yoko!" Actually you should love her, and pick up Season of Glass while you're at it.





love forever changes lp amoeba
- Forever Changes (1967)

A personal fave! My parents heard me playing this and were like "what is this new shit you're listening to?" It's from your era, dum dums. It's just always gonna sound fucking weird and amazing if you've never heard it.



m.i.a. kala lpM.I.A.Kala (2007)

A brutal pop record, the kind that detonated hard at the time of its release and will most certainly stand the test of time.





bob marley & the wailers catch a fire lpBob Marley & The Wailers - Catch a Fire (1973)

If you think the frat bros of America have ruined Bob Marley for you, you need to go back and explore the early Wailers records, starting with their classic major-label debut.




van morrison astral weeks lpVan Morrison - Astral Weeks (1968)

Like James Joyce in musical form, Astral Weeks is a sophistocated, stream-of-consciousness, genre-defying listen.





joni mitchell blue lp amoeba
Joni Mitchell
Blue (1971)

One of the best folk, singer-songwriter, guitar, everything records.





mbv lpMy Bloody Valentine - mbv (2013)

Obviously if you can find the first two albums (in whatever print you can find), you should get them. But their latest album is a potent statement of the pure power of sound, and perhaps the best album of the year.




Nirvana In Uterro

NirvanaIn Utero (1993)

Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)

Both of these have been reissued and are absolutely crucial. In Utero, in particular, has aged well.



notorious big ready to die lp amoeba
Notorious B.I.G.
Ready to Die (1994)

One of the best rappers ever. This first album is his most perfect statement—morbid, funny, saddly prescient.




outkast stankonia lpOutKast - Stankonia (2000)

This album and Is This It? were everything in the early 2000s.





pavement slanted and enchanted lpPavementSlanted and Enchanted (1992)

A time capsule of indie-rock perfection and blueprint for scores of underground bands to come.





Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd
Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

There's a reason Dark Side of the Moon posters line college campus walls 40 years after this album's release. It still amazes every time.




the pixies doolittle lpThe Pixies - Doolittle (1989)

Kind of like The Velvet Underground & Nico for the '90s—every one of these tracks seems to map out a subgenre to follow.





portishead third lpPortisheadThird (2008)

My pick for best album of the new millennium.





elvis presley lp amoeba
Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley (1956)

Don't mess with The King. His first record is the shit.




Prince 1999
1999 (1982)

Prince - Purple Rain (1984)

If you want to DJ anywhere, ever...




public enemy it takes a nation of millions lpPublic EnemyIt Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

The greatest rap album of all time? Perhaps. No record collection (hip-hop or otherwise) is complete without this.




queen a night at the opera lpQueenA Night at the Opera (1975)

Sure, it's got "Bohemian Rhapsody," which is awesome and all, but the rest of this record is fucking nuts.




REM Murmur
Murmur (1983)

A bunch of people told me this didn't belong on an all-time records list. Then I played them "Talk About the Passion" and "Sitting Still" and they were like "oh, you're right, I'm a complete moron, thanks for the tip and I will listen to this record forever till the day I die!"


radiohead the bends lp amoeba
The Bends (1995)

Radiohead - Kid A (2000)

Radiohead - OK Computer (1997)

The greatest band of our generation.



ramones ramones lpRamonesRamones (1976)

We can debate the first punk album/song all day, but the Ramones' singular sound, perfectly formed upon first release, is still what most people think of when they hear the word "punk."




Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street
The Rolling Stones
- Exile on Main Street (1972)

The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet  (1968)

The Rolling Stones - Some Girls (1978)

Another record collection staple, The Rolling Stones have an estimable catalog. These are as good a place as any to start. Dig in.


roxy music for your pleasure lpRoxy Music For Your Pleasure (1973)

One of the best Roxy Music albums. Suave, dark and cool.





sex pistols never mind the bullocks lpSex PistolsNever Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (1977)

The blueprint for every band that burned quickly and brightly after them.





simon garfunkle bridge over troubled waters lp amoeba
Simon & Garfunkel
 – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)

Basically too beautiful for words.



paul simon graceland lpPaul SimonGraceland (1986)

Find out where Vampire Weekend got all those neat ideas!





Frank Sinatra Wee Small Hours

Frank Sinatra In the Wee Small Hours (1955)

The king of standards, Sinatra's ninth album tells the other side of the story of Sinatra as an artist on this moody, lovelorn masterpiece.




smashing pumpkins siamese dream lpSmashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream (1993)

My favorite high-school album. Most of the Pumpkins' best albums (save Adore) have been reissued on vinyl. If somebody wants to shell out for Mellon Collie for me, I'd be infinitely grateful.




patti smith horses lp
Patti Smith
- Horses (1975)

Punk, meet poetry, let's play.




sonic youth daydream nation lpSonic Youth Daydream Nation (1988)

There's a reason Pitchfork calls this the best album of the '80s. Every so often, go back to the Sonic Youth well with this record and remember how they changed your brain forever.




Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield Dusty in Memphis (1969)

An eternal favorite of breathy, blue-eyed soul.





the strokes is this is lpThe Strokes - Is This It? (2001)

This really was it in 2001. They were the band we'd been waiting for, and Is This It? captures lightning in a bottle.





T Rex Electric Warrior

T. Rex - Electric Warrior (1971)

Wow rock music would'be become really boring if this were never released! Yr welcome punk, glam, post-punk.




talking heads remain in light lpTalking HeadsRemain in Light (1980)

A complete arc in only eight songs, from exhuberant, afro-pop post-punk to a deeply dark conclusion.





marquee moon lpTelevisionMarquee Moon (1977)

Marquee Moon can claim many "bests"—best debut album (outside of maybe VU & Nico?), best punk album, best guitar record. It's just the best.





the smiths lp amoeba
The Smiths
The Queen Is Dead (1986)

The Smiths - The Smiths (1984)

They're worth every sixpence.




The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground (1969)

The beginning of everything, the end of everything, R.I.P. Lou Reed.




tom waits rain dogs lpTom Waits - Rain Dogs (1985)

Rain Dogs is Waits' undisputed classic, but it might cost you a pretty penny. Swordfishtrombones, which sounds unearthed from a carnival from hell, comes in a close second.




Best of Muddy Waters

Muddy WatersThe Best of (1958)

While I am loathe to put greatest hits records on here (though there are plenty of great ones in their own right, artists who are better represented by their hits than full albums, and so on), it would seem remiss not to include Chicago blues legend Muddy Waters, whose influence (and catalog) are mammoth. He's been compiled many times over; this compilation of his early work is easily digestible and was reissued this year, making it an easy find.


weezer pinkerton lpWeezerPinkerton (1996)

A sick, fucked up, awesome rock record.





kanye west my beautiful dark twisted fantasy lpKanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Whatever, everyone! This rules.





the who quadrophenia lpThe Who - Quadrophenia (1973)

I don't personally care much about The Who, but for completion's sake, why not.





stevie wonder innervisionsStevie Wonder Innervisions (1973)

Stevie Wonder's records are so great, so influential. Discovering Stevie Wonder's catalog should be a joy for any music collector.





wu-tang clan 36 chambers lp amoeba
Wu-Tang Clan
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

The Wu-Tang Clan now almost seems like it didn't happen—how could they have fit all of that talent in one band without stepping on each other or sounding like a mess? 36 Chambers still sounds lean and mean, even with its massive (and massively influential) cast of characters.



Neil Young Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

Neil YoungEverybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)

You don't have to tell me that Harvest and After the Gold Rush are worth mentioning, but this is one of Young's classics we have in stock, housing proto-punk single "Cinammon Girl" plus two awesome jams, "Cowgirl in the Sand' and "Down By the River." Ugh just get all of his records already.



the zombies odyssey and oracle lpThe ZombiesOdessey & Oracle (1968)

A wondrous pop record that always begs to be rediscovered.






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