If you’re still making inroads in the world of vinyl collecting, you might feel more overwhelmed than when you first began. As you dive into the expansive musical realm, you immediately encounter that particular Catch-22 wherein the more expertise you gain about a subject, the more you realize just how little you actually know. There’s just so much ground to cover— hundreds of thousands of artists spanning centuries, cultures, and genres. There are millions of albums, sitting latent, simply waiting for you to pick them up, set them on your classic record player, and press play.
So much music, so little time!
Vinyl Records Collection Guide
These days, everyone has such a strong opinion on their favorite albums or must-have records that it can feel overwhelming. To help you parse through the myriad opinions, below we’ll play Sherpa, providing you with some advice and suggestions for expanding your collection.
Record Collecting Tips
Before we dive into our list of records, there are some tips all music fans should know that will help you prepare for this lifelong journey of musical discovery and collecting records.
- Collect in themes – Even with unlimited time and money, odds are that there would still be records that slip from your grasp; some that you simply can’t ever track down. If you try and collect everything, you’ll never be satisfied and there will inevitably be holes or missing pieces. However, you can make life easier by starting with an artist, band, or genre you like and going from there. For example, with an artist:
- Start with their debut album and then fill out the discography.
- Once you track down the major records, you can look for first pressings, rarer recordings, or limited pressings. Since these are likely more expensive and harder to find, you don’t need to worry about rarity in the beginning of collecting records.
- Buy music you actually like – It’s easy to recommend the greatest hits of each genre, but if you don’t have any connection to that music, collecting vinyl won’t turn into a passion. You’d be amazed by just how many people buy records simply because that’s what’s cool or popular. Don’t! That’s just a waste of money. Your vinyl collection is a collection for you, not for others. If you plan on spending your money, you want to get the most value possible out of each album you purchase.
- Become a regular at a record shop – You need to think of yourself as a prospector, a 49er competing against all the other collectors. A huge aspect of collecting vinyl is the process of discovery itself. The nature of this business determines that a store’s collection can vary on an almost daily basis. Each time you’re in the store can be a different experience. Sometimes it’s a success, sometimes a failure. The joy of it lies in that feeling of anticipation as you finger your way through the records, never knowing what treasure might lie behind the next album.
- Get to know your local record store staff so that they can guide you to what you want or hold onto a record that they know you’re looking for. The staff are experienced collectors in their own right. Make friends with them and you have a veteran on your side who has first eyes on any new tracks to the store.
- Visit multiple times a week to ensure that you’re seeing what there is to offer and not just the leftover scraps.
- Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger – If there’s a record you’ve been searching for and it pops up in the store, buy it then and there. You never know when you’ll see it again. If you don’t strike then and there, odds are, someone else will. Don’t let your white whale swim away without even trying to land it. Otherwise, you might be left decades later with naught but a sad story and regret.
A Vinyl Record from Several Genres
Do you want to bolster your fledgling collection? Check out some genres and suggestions that are perfect additions to the compilation.
Few genres are better suited for the laid-back vibes of throwing on a vinyl and simply relaxing than reggae music. This feel-good genre is always good listening for a party, a BBQ, or just a night to unwind.
- Bob Marley & The Wailers: Exodus – In 1977, the father of reggae released his ninth original studio album, just months after an assignation attempt was made on Jamaican legend’s life. As the name implies, this album was a departure from Marley’s traditional fare. The album is split into two halves:
- Side 1 focuses on religious politics, culminating with the album’s titular song, “Exodus.”
- Side 2 focuses on faith and sex and has hits like “Jamming,” “Three Little Birds,” and “One Love.”
- Legalize It (1976): Peter Tosh
- Legend (1984): Bob Marley
- Welcome to Jam Rock (2006): Damien Marley
- The Green (2010): The Green
- Hear Me Roar (2007): J Booog
In many ways, EDM has shifted the music landscape, pushing both sound and technology to see what is possible as Disco, hip-hop, pop, and funk were combined to create a whole new genre of music. While the wompy-robotic nature of dubstep might be a little much for you, there are older albums that just about any audiophile can cherish in their collection.
- Discovery (2001) – Daftpunk
- Color Map of the Sun (2013) – Pretty Lights
- Brighter Future (2016) – Big Gigantic
- Flume (2012) – Flume
- A Moment Apart (2017) – Odesza
The ‘60s and ‘70s of Rock’s evolution in the U.K. was defined by heavy metal artists, such as Led Zepplin, Motörhead, and Black Sabbath. If you want fist pumping, heart pounding, face melting solos, then look no further.
- Black Sabbath: Paranoid – In 1970, the English heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, released its second and most famous album; an album that Rolling Stone named the best Metal album ever made. Although it contains the bands one and only top 20 hit, “Paranoid,” this record is often cited as one of the most influential rock albums of all time, defining the sound and style of heavy metal.
- Honorable Mentions:
- Master of Puppets (1986) – Metallica
- The Number of the Beats (1982) – Iron Maiden
- No Remorse (1984) – Motör Head
- Screaming for Vengeance (1982) – Judas Priest
- Too Fast for Love (1981) – Mötley Crüe
The Beatles and Pink Floyd helped start a musical revolution springing from the Hippy Culture of the ‘60s. This bold, psychedelic take on rock produced some of the most collectible worthy vinyl records of all time.
- Tame Impala: Currents – In 2015, the Australian Psych Rock band released its 3rd album, solidifying Tame as the leader of the psych-rock genre. A critical and commercial hit, the entirety of the album, from instruments to backup vocals, was created and recorded by lead singer Kevin Parker. Thematically, critics felt that this recording was the most mature, complete, and personal album released by the Aussie auteur. With hits like “Let it Happen,” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” this album and genre was made for the record player.
- Honorable Mentions:
- Dark Side of the Moon (1973) – Pink Floyd
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Bad (1967) – The Beatles
- Soft Bulletin (1999) – Flaming Lips
- Anthem of the Sun (1968) – Grateful Dead
- House in the Tall Grass (2016) – Kigaku Moyo
The Golden Age of Hip-Hop emerged with the resurgence of the record player. While CDs were the medium being pushed at the time, the vinyl and cover art of some of hip-hops greatest legendary albums make fantastic wall displays.
- 2 Pac: All Eyez on Me – In 1996, Tupac Shafur released what would be his last and best-selling album of his meteoric career. Jam-packed with classic hits such as “California Love,” this west coast rap album went on to sell more than 5,000,000 copies on its way to diamond. If you’re a fan of the rap genre, no vinyl collection is complete without some Pac.
- Honorable Mentions:
- Marshall Mathers LP (2000) – Eminem
- The Chronic (1992) – Dr. Dre
- Ready to Die (1994) – Biggie Smalls
- Straight Outta Compton (1988) – N.W.A
- Get Rich of Die Trying (2003) – 50 Cent
Starting Your Collection
A vinyl record is a physical anchor to a moment in time. When you pick up a vinyl and place it on your turntable, you remember where you bought it, what stage of life you were in, who you were with, maybe even how much it cost. You remember the experience of adding that album to your collection––welcoming it into your life. No one, not even the most avid digital music enthusiasts have that experience when they access the hard drive space where their audio is stored.
As you begin your deep dive into vinyl collections, remember that the albums listed above are just a few suggestions. Feel free to follow or disregard them as you please. The joy of collecting is all about finding the music, genre, artist, or art that speaks to you. So, don’t over think it. Just start going and you’ll soon have a fleshed-out vinyl collection that is meaningful to you.
Billboard. Greatest of All Time Billboard 200 Albums. https://www.billboard.com/charts/greatest-billboard-200-albums
Rolling Stone. 100 Greatest Medal Albums of All Time. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/the-100-greatest-metal-albums-of-all-time-113614/
Pitchfork. Highest Rated Albums of All Time. https://www.albumoftheyear.org/ratings/1-pitchfork-highest-rated/all/1