Essential Vinyl Records Perfect for Your Valentine
Who doesn't love love? Valentine's Day is right around the corner, pink and red imagery everywhere, and no retail shopping experience is complete without walking past shelves and shelves of heart-shaped candy. There is perhaps no greater way to express affection than music, the universal language meant to bring us together. Here are some essential albums perfect for a dance with your Valentine.
Speaking in Tongues (1983)- Talking Heads
An admittedly strange place to start this list, but here we are, with a new wave masterpiece featuring a variety of the band's most popular songs. However, it's the album's finale that merits inclusion on this list, David Byrne's "non-corny" take on a love song, "This Must Be the Place." Byrne's voice strains with emotion as he sings of being home with his love, and realizing he's already there. The simply (or naïve) melody lets Byrne's lyrics speak for themselves in this touching, stripped down song about comfort and love.
At Last! (1960)- Etta James
Undoubtedly one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century, Etta James is arguably at her strongest on her 1960 debut. Listeners are treated to her smooth, bluesy tone through the album's first few songs, but James truly shines on the album's title track. Her powerful rendition of "At Last" has stood the test of time, remaining a gold standard for love songs, and one of the greatest slow dance tunes ever recorded.
Let's Stay Together (1972)- Al Green
Already having achieved moderate success in his career, Let's Stay Together vaulted Al Green into soul superstardom. Green's silky-smooth vocal tone meshes perfectly with his band's funky instrumentation, most notably on the album's title track. "Let's Stay Together" has become so well-identified as a symbol of love and harmony, then-President Barack Obama even gave us a short rendition at a campaign stop in 2012.
Elton John (1970)- Elton John
A stripped down version of Elton John before he developed his raucous, flamboyant personality. He and songwriter Bernie Taupin intended to put together a collection of songs for use by more established artists but put forth, in my opinion, one of the truly great love songs ever composed. "Your Song" is delicate track in which a bumbling narrator lists all the things he can't do, except write a song and "this one's for you."
In These Silent Days (2021)- Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile has proven herself to be one of the best songwriters working in music today. She dazzled again with In These Silent Days, a masterclass of Americana that features tightly crafted songs and raw, unfiltered vocals. It's "You and Me on the Rock" that stands out here, Carlile's folk ballad that serves as a loving tribute to her wife. The track speaks of the life they continue to build together and that all she really needs is "you and me on the rock."
Can't Get Enough (1973)- Barry White
We couldn't possibly do this list without the Walrus of Love, could we? Barry White's deep, baritone voice comes through on hits like "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" and "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe." White's style exudes charisma and has made him synonymous with the very concept of a love song.
Pet Sounds (1966)- The Beach Boys
It only seems fitting that one of the greatest records of all time would also boast one of the greatest love songs ever written. Hit after hit takes us to the opening track of side two, in which we are treated to Brian Wilson's masterpiece, "God Only Knows", arguably the track that cemented the Beach Boys' transition from pop stars to celebrated songwriters. Brian Wilson's production chops are out in full force, as his lyrics wonder about a love so powerful, it could only be imagined by a higher being.
Sound & Color (2015)- Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes put their stamp on soul with Sound & Color, an album defined by its bluesy instrumentation and frontwoman Brittany Howard's powerful vocals. Howard is at her best on "Gimme All Your Love", a brilliant love song in which she implores her partner to give her everything, the good and the bad, delivered with raw passion and emotion.
Abbey Road (1969)- The Beatles
Abbey Road was the final album recorded by The Beatles, with the sessions marred by infighting among the members of the band. However, when Frank Sinatra calls one of the tracks "the greatest love song ever written," it warrants inclusion on this list. George Harrison's "Something" is the album's second track, a hauntingly beautiful song in which the narrator attempts to describe the indescribable, only able to land on "something in the way she moves."
Just Once in My Life (1965)- The Righteous Brothers
Packed with standard after standard, The Righteous Brothers' 1965 effort stands the test of time, with one track standing heads and shoulders above the rest. The blue-eyed soul duo put their own spin on "Unchained Melody" and in doing so, created one of the most enduring love songs of all time, designed to tug at every heartstring and touch on every classic trope.