20 essential albums to own on vinyl

28 May 2024, 06:18 | Updated: 28 May 2024, 13:18

Vinyl albums - here's what you need to start a great collection
Vinyl albums - here's what you need to start a great collection. Picture: Kay Roxby / Herrmann Agenturfotografie / David Lichtneker / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Radio X

By Radio X

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  1. 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: Alamy
  2. 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: Alamy
  3. 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: Alamy
  4. 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: Alamy
  5. 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: Alamy
  6. Arctic Monkeys - AM

    The Monkeys' fifth studio album is a perfect listen on vinyl. Side 1 opens with the classic Do I Wanna Know and ends with No 1 Party Anthem; flip the disc over for Mad Sounds, with a side that ends with the classic I Wanna Be Yours. The distinctive artwork can be spotted from across the room, too.

    Arctic Monkeys - AM
    Arctic Monkeys - AM. Picture: Alamy
  7. 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: Alamy
  8. 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: Alamy
  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: Alamy
  10. 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: Alamy
  11. 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: Alamy
  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: Alamy
  13. Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti

    Led Zep's sixth album was a luxurious double set, which featured the epic Trampled Underfoot and Kashmir to keep your stereo system working hard. Feel the power of John Bonham in those grooves! And, you can enjoy playing with the die cut sleeve, complete with adjustable window views.

    Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti album cover
    Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti album cover. Picture: Alamy
  14. 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: Alamy
  15. 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: Alamy
  16. 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: Alamy
  17. 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 cover art
    Blondie - Parallel Lines cover art. Picture: Alamy
  18. George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (1970)

    The Quiet One's first real solo album (after the experimental releases Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound) was a triple set - two albums of all the compositions George had saved up during the Beatle years, plus an album's worth of an all star "Apple Jam" featuring Eric Clapton, Billy Preston and Ringo. This disc comes with a unique Apple jam pot on the label and the whole thing comes in a nice box, complete with a poster!

    George Harrison - All Things Must Pass album cover
    George Harrison - All Things Must Pass album cover. Picture: Alamy
  19. Public Image Limited - Metal Box

    The second album from John Lydon's post-punk, post-Sex Pistols band was ground breaking in so many ways, not least the original packaging which featured three 12" discs that played at 45rpm and came housed within an austere round metal tin - hence the album title.

    Public Image Limited's Metal Box
    Public Image Limited's Metal Box. Picture: Alamy
  20. Pixies - Doolitte (1989)

    The Boston band's second full length album featured 15 brisk tracks across two sides of vinyl, including Debaser, Here Comes Your Man and Monkey Gone To Heaven. The original vinyl edition has a beautiful sleeve by the 4AD label's designer Vaughan Oliver, plus a booklet of lyrics featuring some occasionally disturibing photography depicting scenes from Black Francis' lyrics.

    Pixies - Doolittle album cover
    Pixies - Doolittle album cover. Picture: Alamy