25 essential albums to own on vinyl

10 November 2020, 11:12

Lots of lovely vinyl records
Lots of lovely vinyl records. Picture: Getty Creative Images

Some albums really should be heard via the analogue medium of vinyl. They look better, the sound better, they feel better. But which LPs should you pick if you're starting a collection? Let us help you.

  1. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)

    First released as CD was starting to become the format of choice, there was something pleasingly retro about owning this on vinyl, mainly thanks to the distinctive John Squire artwork on the outer and inner sleeves. You may need to crank up your amp, though - it's a long album and those grooves get a bit small (and therefore quieter).

    The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses album cover
    The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses album cover. Picture: Press
  2. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

    Divided into the "Inside" and the "Outside" on vinyl, the Manchester band's debut album is housed in a fine Peter Saville sleeve - but make sure you get a version with the embossed texture on the cover! There was a 40th anniversary edition released in 2019 on ruby red vinyl and the black and white cover reversed.

    Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures album cover
    Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures album cover. Picture: Press
  3. The White Stripes - Elephant (2003)

    Jack and Meg's career-defining album, pressed across two nice vinyl discs. "No computers were used during the writing, recording, mixing or mastering of this record" declare the sleeve notes. But you're reading this digitally, so you've gone and ruined it.

    The White Stripes - Elephant album cover
    The White Stripes - Elephant album cover. Picture: Press
  4. Arctic Monkeys -Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

    Plonking the vinyl edition of the latest Monkeys album means you're in for the long haul as Alex Turner's imagination starts to unfurl - and this is a record that should be enjoyed in one sitting. Plus, you can see the dedication to Turner's dog on the inner sleeve. We recommend the clear vinyl version as that's the most "Kubrick" edition.

    Arctic Monkeys -Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino album cover
    Arctic Monkeys -Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino album cover. Picture: Press
  5. The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

    Some say Revolver is the best one to get on vinyl, but the Pepper package is much, much better. From the ground-breaking cover, to Sir Peter Blake's cardboard cut-out inserts, this is a meticulously-sequenced album, complete with a dog whistle and a "secret track" engraved into the end of side two. It's worth paying a bit extra for the original mono edition, which is the only Beatles-approved version and still sounds incredible.

    The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover
    The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. Picture: Press
  6. Oasis - Definitely Maybe (1994)

    Remastered in 2014 for the album's twentieth anniversary, this is the definitive Britpop statement, complete with a memorable piece of cover art. And don't forget all those incredible tunes within the grooves. They're not bad, either.

    Oasis - Definitely Maybe album cover
    Oasis - Definitely Maybe album cover. Picture: Press
  7. The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead (1986)

    Morrissey and Marr paid homage to the 1960s in their songwriting, so listening to this landmark record on MP3 or CD is just plain wrong. Plus, on vinyl, you get the fantastic gatefold sleeve, featuring the full lyrics and Stephen Wright's classic shot of the band outside Salford Lad's Club.

    The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead album cover
    The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead album cover. Picture: Press
  8. Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

    Another classic rock essential, revel in the Hipgnosis artwork and ponder on life's mysteries as you flip the record over after The Great Gig In The Sky. Money remains one of the all-time greatest "Side Two, Track Ones".

    Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon album cover
    Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon album cover. Picture: Press
  9. Kate Bush - The Hounds Of Love (1985)

    La Bush’s finest work, segmented into two side-long pieces: The Hounds Of Love and The Ninth Wave. Side one is the hits, side two is one of Kate’s more interesting sonic explorations.

    Kate Bush - The Hounds Of Love album cover
    Kate Bush - The Hounds Of Love album cover. Picture: Press
  10. The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers (1971)

    You need to get your hands on the version with an actual zip on the cover, mind you. That's the only way you'll get the full risqué effect of Andy Warhol's cover art. The music's not bad either. Includes Brown Sugar, Sister Morphine, Wild Horses and many more!

    The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers album cover
    The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers album cover. Picture: Press
  11. The Clash - London Calling (1979)

    Released in the dying days of the 1970s, this very un-punk rock-like double album starts with the incredible title track and careers over four eclectic sides. Original copies didn't list the final track, Train In Vain, which must have been a nice surprise.

    The Clash - London Calling album cover
    The Clash - London Calling album cover. Picture: Press
  12. David Bowie - Low (1977)

    Let's face it, any Bowie on vinyl is great, but this '77 classic looks fantastic and is divided into the "pop" side with tracks like Sound And Vision, and the "ambient" side, with Brian Eno's synthy soundscapes. Ian Curtis of Joy Division had a copy of this and so should you.

    David Bowie - Low album cover
    David Bowie - Low album cover. Picture: Press
  13. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

    The Zep's fourth outing included the all-time classic guitar player's anthem, Stairway To Heaven and is an essential addition to any classic rock collection. Plus, you can appreciate the baffling sleeve artwork much better.

    Led Zeppelin IV album cover
    Led Zeppelin IV album cover. Picture: Press
  14. Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde (1966)

    More fold-out sleeve fun, as Dylan's classic double album bears a huge quarter-length portrait of the man. Kicking off with the hilarious Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, the LP's final side is taken up with the ambitious eleven-minute track Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands.

    Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde (1966)
    Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde (1966). Picture: Press
  15. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique (1989)

    The hip hop trio seemed washed up following their controversial debut, Licensed To Ill, but this ambitious melange of samples proved they weren't just a novelty band. The vinyl edition makes the most of the excellent sleeve photo with a fold-out cover.

    Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique album cover
    Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique album cover. Picture: Press
  16. The xx - XX (2009)

    Sonically ambitious, this was one of the best debut albums of the past decade and sounds even better across two vinyl discs for better analogue reproduction. You can spot that album sleeve from half a mile away, too.

    The xx - xx album cover
    The xx - xx album cover. Picture: Press
  17. AC/DC - Back In Black (1980)

    Heavy metal was meant to be heard on black, black vinyl. The first AccaDacca album recorded after the death of original frontman Bon Scott, this comeback needs to be owned with the embossed cover - the lads did the “Black Album” a decade before Metallica did it. It opens with the mournful Hell’s Bells and then never lets up: Shoot To Thrill, the title track, You Shook Me All Night Long…

    AC/DC - Back In Black album cover
    AC/DC - Back In Black album cover. Picture: Press
  18. Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)

    An obvious choice? but you need that classic cover full size. Another record of two halves: you know all the famous tunes on side one, while side two digs into the band’s grunge roots, ending on Kurt Cobain’s introverted Something In The Way.

    Nirvana - Nevermind album cover
    Nirvana - Nevermind album cover. Picture: Press
  19. Pixies - Surfer Rosa (1988)

    Produced by alternative rock legend Steve Albini, this full-length debut has more dynamic range than the popular Doolittle and whips up a storm once singer Black Francis gets hollerin’. Side two kicks off with Where Is My Mind, one of the greatest “turn the record over” moments. Now available in a lovely bronze vinyl edition, with the mini-LP Come On Pilgrim added.

    Pixies - Surfer Rosa album cover
    Pixies - Surfer Rosa album cover. Picture: Press
  20. Pearl Jam - Ten (1991)

    Confronted with the vinyl edition, you realise the artwork you’re familiar with is actually a detail from the full cover. A peerless collection of modern rock classics. Includes Alive, Jeremy and Even Flow.

    Pearl Jam - Ten album cover
    Pearl Jam - Ten album cover. Picture: Press
  21. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black (2006)

    Born into the CD age, the classic second album from the late, lamented Winehouse has enjoyed a new life on vinyl. With jazz as a musical inspiration, this only seems fitting. Includes the title track, Rehab, Tears Dry On Their Own, Love Is A Losing Game and other lovelorn favourites.

    Amy Winehouse - Back To Black album cover
    Amy Winehouse - Back To Black album cover. Picture: Press
  22. Radiohead - OK Computer (1997)

    Vinyl was going through its dark years in the post-Britpop era, but Radiohead’s classic was released as a double LP in a gatefold sleeve with the cryptic lyrics printed on it. The sides care called “eeny”, “meeny”, “miney” and “mo” and each one is impeccably sequenced.

    Radiohead - OK Computer album cover
    Radiohead - OK Computer album cover. Picture: Press
  23. The Who - Live At Leeds (1970)

    Sure, you could have a Who studio album in your collection, but wouldn’t you rather have this cobweb-blowing live recording of the band at their peak? The original vinyl came in a brown paper folder that looked like a bootleg and was package with an array of posters and replica bits of memorabilia relating to the Who’s glittering live career.

    The Who - Live At Leeds album cover
    The Who - Live At Leeds album cover. Picture: Press
  24. Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger (1991)

    Any record that kicks off with the howl into the abyss that is Rusty Cage deserves your indulgence. Also includes the brilliant Jesus Christ Pose, but the whole album should annoy the neighbours.

    Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger album cover
    Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger album cover. Picture: Press
  25. Blondie - Parallel Lines (1978)

    A huge-selling album from the days when vinyl was king. Things kick off with the sound of Debbie Harry Hanging On The Telephone, and it’s non-stop hits after that. Heart Of Glass is tucked away in the middle of side two!

    Blondie - Parallel Lines (1978)
    Blondie - Parallel Lines (1978). Picture: Press