Do you love rock music? Are you interested in learning what the best rock albums on vinyl are? If so, look no further, as we countdown 10 of the best rock record to ever be released on vinyl.
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And without further ado, let’s kick off our top 10 countdown with an album by the famous U2.
10. The Joshua Tree by U2, 1987
The Joshua Tree is U2’s fifth and most celebrated studio album. The vinyl was recently re-released in 2017 to promore their Joshua Tree celebration tour in a gorgeous massic retrospective featuring previously unreleased concert recording remixed, b-sides, and a book of photography by the Edge. U2 both critique and celebrate American myths and dreams from their Irish immigrant perspective.
“Bullet the Blue Sky” and “In God’s Country narrate the American landscape and purposefully fascinate the listener with vivid imagery of promised lands. “Running to Stand Still” and “With or Without You” are also timeless centerpieces on this legendary album. The Edge’s guitar riffs are minimalistic and run seamlessly into “Where the Streets Have No Name,” their most thought-provoking song on the album. The flow of The Joshua Tree is an unorthodox pick for top ten best rock albums, but its creative differentiation between other alternative albums makes it an essential genre contender.
9. A Night at the Opera by Queen, November 1975
A Night at the Opera is Queen’s fourth studio album and most expensive rock album ever recorded due at the time of its release. Its uplifting and soulful “Bohemian Rhapsody” has rocked the world ever since its popular release and its playlist, featuring the huge hit “You’re My Best Friend” remains an essential, cinematic dream song.
The wide range of instrumentation including music hall, hard rock, and ballad styles contributed to both its stellar budget and hyper-aware sound. Freddie Mercury’s vocals are diverse and reverberate perfectly on the vinyl version of this pinnacle rock album. I recommend if you do buy it for your vinyl records collection to make sure you have the re-mastered version. The re-mastering elevates and clarifies Mercury’s seamless vocals.
8. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, February 1977
Fleetwood Mac is the essential seventies band. They are unapologetically honest and vulnerable on their best and the most celebrated album Rumours. The album has sold more than forty million copies worldwide and continues to be one of the best-selling albums of all time. Its success is not only bookended by its honesty and vulnerability, but can be credited to Stevie Nicks’, Lindsey Buckingham, and Christine and John McVie’s contribution to its tumultuous lyricism.
The making of the album is as interesting as its fleeting prose. Immediately before the making of the album, bandmates Nicks and Buckingham had split, drummer Mick Fleetwood was having issues with his marriage, and Christine and John McVie had recently divorced. The band family drama invigorates its folk sound a compelling subject matter. For example, “Go Your Own Way” mirrors their intertwined romantic relationships and “The Chain” battles through argumentative prose.
Nicks’ recently stated about the album, “Even though ‘Go Your Own Way’ was a little angry, it was also honest.” Rumours has recently been remastered and released for vinyl due to its artistic contribution and popularity within the rock and pop genre. You can find a copy at most vinyl record stores.
7. Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones, April 1971
Sticky Fingers is the ninth British and eleventh American studio album by the Rolling Stones. Besides having seminal tracks such as “Brown Sugar,” “Dead Flowers,” “Wild Horses,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” and “Moonlight Mile.” Upon its initial release, critics did not give Sticky Fingers favorable reviews. Its subject matter is innovative and timeless.
Conversations about drugs and honesty about race, sex, and violence remain relevant to this day. The cover art is also timeless and essential for every vinyl lover to stack proudly on their vinyl shelves. Andy Warhol originally conceived the album cover. On the original vinyl copy, the zipper on Mick Jagger’s pants opens. The famous Rolling Stones’ tongue also made its debut on “Sticky Fingers,” an icon still famously associated with the band today. The album was recently remastered for vinyl in 2015.
6. Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, 1966
Pet Sounds is The Beach Boys’ most important and creative album to date. For the first time in rock history, the band blended psychedelia, orchestral arrangement, retro and surf rock for a fresh, progressive sound. Co-founder of the band, Brian Wilson, wrote most of the music and lyrics for Pet Sounds making it his most prolific and creative musical composition.
Pet Sounds California dreamin’ melodies are awe-inspiring and evoke nostalgic, timeless relationships to the 1960s. The album continues to make a lasting impression on the essential west coast rock sound. The vinyl re-release of Pet Sounds can be found in found in almost any vinyl records store. However, keep in mind the record weighs 180 grams and might be a little heavy for basic portable record players with built-in speakers.
5. Rubber Soul, The Beatles (1965)
Beatlemania in the early 1960s took the world by storm. The Beatles first major album hits “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help!” and “Meet The Beatles!” solidified their popularity in both the United States’ and Europe. By the time they produced Rubber Soul McCartney, Lennon, Starr, and Harrison wanted to make a major departure from their original upbeat, pop hits.
Rubber Soul features “Girl,” “Michelle,” and “Drive My Car” and revolutionized the popular rock genre into a creative, harder genre style. Harrison’s guitar on Rubber Soul will sound deliciously fuzzy and full through your vinyl speakers. Rubber Soul’s artistic merit makes an album, rather than singular pop rock statement and will be an essential piece of your vinyl record collection.
4. Led Zepplin II, 1969
We could not compile the best rock albums of all time list without including the legendary band Led Zepplin. The band’s impact on the rock genre continues to reverberate through our speakers today. Led Zepplin has a prolific discography, but their second studio and self-titled album Led Zepplin II speaks to a generation.
All of the songs are played on thick and heavy. Its orchestration, lyricism, and overall theme are distinctive, sentimental, and fresh. “Thank You” has lyrics which will resonate within your romantic consciousness while Bonham’s drums in “Ramble On” will leave you staring at the clouds. The thunderstorm continues with “Whole Lotta Love” the band’s biggest U.S. chart hit. “Whole Lotta Love” has made it on almost every “greatest-rock-song-ever” list.
3. Ziggy Stardust…, 1972
Often called the “Best Rockstar Ever,” David Bowie is the crowned prince of alter ego glam-rock. His musical impact spans over fifty years and his album Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars features his most popular alter-ego to date, the bisexual alien rock superstar privvy to politics, sex, drugs, and, simultaneously, pop refinement.
The progressive sound and lyricism on the album reinvigorate the rock genre. He thrills his audience on the key track “Starman” and reinvents alternative music in the toe-tapping “Suffragette City.” The re-release of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars you can find relatively cheap, but an original press starts around seventy dollars.
2. Back in Black by AC/DC, 1980
“Back in Black” is the first song to appear on AC/DC.’s greatest album Back in Black. Now considered a classic, Back in Black is overwhelmingly riff-driven, wild, and punk-inspired rock n/roll. The best part of its full-blooded glory is its ambitious arena sound is anything but timid on the vinyl LP.
“You Shook Me All Night Long” is a car-pool karaoke classic. “Hells Bells” is a defiant and explosive call to action. “Givin’ the Dog a Bone” inspires their fan to hit peak punk and commit to a lifetime of debauchery. AC/DC’s punk simplicity is stellar to the ear and packs a punk punch. If you buy this re-press of this vinyl at your local vinyl records store make sure you play it loud when you get home. Back in Black is meant to wake up your neighbors from their boring slumber!
1. The Wall by Pink Floyd, 1982
Considered one of the first pioneering concept albums, Pink Floyd’s The Wall continues to be named on of rock’s most important albums. Pink Floyd’s release of The Wall, their subsequent 1980-81 world tour promoting the album, and movie Pink Floyd: The Wall followed in the tradition of other rock operas such as The Who’s Tommy (1969) and Quadrophenia (1973).
The movie, much like the album, is experimental and indie. Themes such as sex, nuclear disarmament, anti-war, childhood, and relationships chronicle a decaying rock star’s journey. From start to finish The Wall bears a social, political, and personal existential ode to the anti-hero.
Listening to the album on vinyl is an experiential gateway into the creative mind of one of the greatest bands of all time. The vinyl has a total of four sides and features a run-time of eighty minutes contributing to its long, winding, and rich content. There is even an entire website dedicated to its significant impact on music and social critique.
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