Essential Albums You Need to Start a Vinyl Collection

A vinyl record selection. Photo by Natalie Cardona on Unsplash

Within the past few years, vinyl records have made a huge comeback. First seen as a hipster trend, many people, myself included, have started real vinyl collections, and actually care about the quality of their albums. Music fan Mike Jensen, owner of Lakeshore Candy and Jensen’s Vinyl Garage in Plattsburgh, New York, has an idea of a few essential albums for any aspiring collector across a variety of genres. 

1. “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys (1966)

The album cover for Pet Sounds.

“Pet Sounds” was the 11th studio album released by the classic American pop-rock band, The Beach Boys. It’s considered one of the greatest and most innovative concept albums of all time. Jensen suggests one of the reasons for its importance was that because of its rare and revolutionary composition. 

“Nothing sounded this way,” Jensen said. “Ask The Beatles,” referencing the fact that this album was one of the main influences of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Some of the most well-known tracks are “God Only Knows” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”

2. “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd (1973)

“The Dark Side of the Moon” album cover. 

The eighth studio album by English rock band Pink Floyd is often seen as one of the first and the best concept albums. Jensen says the album tells a story and that, if you play it out of order, it does not seem to sound as good. That alone makes it a necessary album for any new collector and should not be difficult to find at any record store. 

“It will take you places,” Jensen said. “Enjoy it loud.”

Some of the most popular tracks are “Money” and “Time,” but again, listening to the album as a whole, especially on a record player, can be a revolutionary experience. 

3. “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath (1970)

The album artwork for “Black Sabbath.”

The debut album from legendary hard rock band Black Sabbath is where Jensen believes heavy metal was born. The opening, self-titled track is also often seen as the first song in that genre as well.

Not only did Black Sabbath invent an entire genre with this album, it also inspired many other legendary artists like Metallica, Nirvana and Sisters of Mercy, according to Jensen. Being an important piece of music history, vinyl lovers should look out for this album to add to their collections. 

“There was never a sound heard before like this,” Jensen said. “It was hell.”

4. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye (1971)

Marvin Gaye’s cover for “What’s Going On.” 

Named #1 on Rolling Stones’ “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” (2020), Marvin Gaye’s 11th studio album introduced a new type of protest to the music industry. According to Jensen, Bob Dylan did a lot of protest music, but in his opinion, this was “smooth” with songs flowing into the next. The whole record was a protest demanding answers. 

Influenced by the Vietnam War, Gaye wrote the title track “What’s Going On” as a cry for answers from the government as to why soldiers were leaving and dying in Vietnam.

“I hated the Vietnam War,” Jensen said. “I didn’t know why we were there, and I did not want to serve my country there.” He believes the music from Gaye fought for their rights more than anything else out there at the time. 

Although everyone has different music tastes, there are just some albums that stick out in music history. Whether they created a genre, influenced other legendary artists, were innovative in their own ways, or inspired a generation to question their government, these albums are vital to how music has been shaped. Jensen’s album choices reach across a variety of genres, so any music fan can find at least something they like.

“I’m a lifelong Stones fan but as a teenager during the times of all four of these albums,” Jensen said, “they have always stuck with me.”

Hopefully, all vinyl fans can find that one album that is just special to them, and will stick with them throughout their lives.

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