Top 10 Rock Albums to Listen to on Vinyl

Script written by Laura Keating Some music just shouldn’t be compressed. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top Ten Rock Albums to Listen to on Vinyl. For this list, we’ve chosen albums that sound the best, achieving the fullest, richest quality when they are played the old-fashioned way. Special thanks to our user Dylan Heyl for suggesting this idea, check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+Ten+Albums+To+Listen+On+Vinyl
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Top 10 Rock Albums to Listen to on Vinyl

 
Some music just shouldn’t be compressed. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top Ten Rock Albums to Listen to on Vinyl. 
 
For this list, we’ve chosen albums that sound the best, achieving the fullest, richest quality when they are played the old-fashioned way. This isn’t to say they are the best albums of all time; some albums just deserve to be listened to on vinyl.
 

#10: “Highway 61 Revisited” (1965)
Bob Dylan

 
In the early 1960s, folk music truly was the music of the people, and their king was Bob Dylan. A revered pioneer in the genre when “Highway 61 Revisited” was released in 1965, track by track, fans were stunned. This was a more geared-up, electric Dylan than fans were used to, and many believed that their folk hero had sold out. But today the album is considered a classic, for many of the same reasons it was once shunned. Incorporating electric guitar, organ, and drums along with acoustic instruments, what resulted was an energetic, weird, rollicking album. With so much happening, digital is not enough, and the only way to take it all in is in its original, vinyl format.
 

#9: “Tapestry” (1971)
Carole King

 
One of the best-selling, and most highly awarded albums of all time, “Tapestry” deserves proper listening attention. The reason people praise vinyl is for the rich, warm sound of analog recordings. Unlike digital formats, the sound is uncompressed, treating your ears to the full aural experience. With “Tapestry,” a musical masterpiece that is basically the auditory equivalent of a warm Sunday morning in Spring, the last thing you want is cold, harsh, and thin digital sound. The album’s lively sound and exceptional mix helped win it Grammys for Best Album and Song of the Year, and cemented King as a seminal songwriter and vocalist. “Tapestry” may not be an earth-shaking album, but we can still feel it moving mountains.
 

#8: “Rumours” (1977)
Fleetwood Mac

 
It's the result of one of the most famous rock n’ roll dramas, and it's as passion-filled and rage-fuelled as any opera. Fleetwood Mac- in the midst of multiple romantic breakups- wrote the album at the height of the turmoil. With highly personal songs- from the argumentative “Second Hand News” to the reassuring “Don’t Stop”, to the bitter, heated, and utterly broken-hearted “Go Your Own Way”- it's like listening to a bomb explode in real time. And then there's “The Chain”, with couple-on-the-rocks Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks battling it out with emotionally charged vocals, and Christine McVie doing her best to ignore John's low end rumble. Overall, the album was praised for its production quality and use of harmony, offering a rich listening experience.
 

#7: “London Calling” (1979)
The Clash

 
One of the greatest punk rock albums of all time, “London Calling” was recorded at a time when Britain was facing economic depression, a drug crisis, racial tensions, and a slew of other bleak scenarios that come with the fall of an empire. Channelling these feelings of societal angst and frustration, the boys of The Clash produced an absolute classic. Recorded at Wessex Studios in London, it was the first post-punk album to incorporate such a huge range of genres, from ska to rockabilly to pop and lounge jazz. Add in the unconventional production methods of Guy Stevens and you’ve got a punk rock masterpiece that truly deserves to be enjoyed on wax.
 

#6: “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972)
David Bowie

 
While the Thin White Duke's final album,“Blackstar,” had plenty to offer to vinyl listeners decided to go with a more classic pick. Perhaps the most iconic of Bowie’s many personas, Ziggy Stardust was a rock star that received messages from extraterrestrial life-forms. Maybe the former David Jones really did get musical tips from aliens, because there is something otherworldly here. Perhaps the greatest concept album ever, Bowie fully committed to the sound and identity. Layered, complex, and ground-breaking in its day, the whole album should be appreciated as the textured masterpiece it is. No one could confine Bowie, and neither should you.
 
 

#5: “Exile on Main St.” (1972)
The Rolling Stones

 
Despite the magnitude of their peers, no one could quite touch The Rolling Stones. While the band’s tenth studio album, “Exile on Main St,” was met with mixed reviews when it was first released, it has since been lauded as a classic. Recorded in the basement of a villa Keith Richards rented near Nice, France, with band members frequently absent- often due to drug use- the making of the album came in fits, spurts, and with odd line ups- all of which only adds to its mystique. With a good set of headphones and this spinning on the turntable, you can close your eyes and almost see yourself in the middle of all the mayhem while this was being recorded.
 
 
 

#4: “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973)
Pink Floyd

 
As psychedelic as they come, and a must-have for any collection, Pink Floyd continued to push the envelope with this prog-rock classic. Unlike “The Wall”, “Dark Side” is far more focused on the music and a few select themes than dramatic, and operatic storytelling. Swamped with echos, delays, modulation effects, Leslie speakers, double tracking, and the emotive guest vocals of Clare Torry, the album has a huge sound, without being artificially enhanced. Engineered by Alan Parsons, who previously worked on the Beatles' “Abbey Road”, and Floyd's own “Atom Heart Mother”, “Dark Side” has an off-world, yet timeless sound. Making full use of the stereo spectrum, and originally mixed for quad, it’s like a live concert in your living room.

#3: “Led Zeppelin IV” (1971)
Led Zeppelin

 
Who didn't go straight out and buy a Zeppelin poster after hearing “Led Zeppelin IV” for the first time? From 'Stairway' to 'Black Dog' to “Rock and Roll,”  IV is a full-on heavy metal experience . It’s hard to tell what is more memorable: Robert Plant’s soaring vocals, Jimmy Page's absolute mastery on lead guitar or John Bonham’s furious drumming. It's not worth picking sides- they work perfectly as one. The only thing a vinyl pressing can’t provide you with are those glistening bare chests and flowing locks, but some sacrifices must be made for the sake of sound quality.
 

#2: “Pet Sounds” (1966)
The Beach Boys

 
Produced, arranged and almost entirely written by Beach Boys frontman and leading force Brian Wilson, this truly is a masterpiece. Opening with a lilting harp hook, the kick drum knocks the beat in place and instantly you are transported back in time. The arrangements throughout “Pet Sounds” are as complex as any classical piece, but the album is never overladen. Textures and odd instrument choices exist for more than just self-indulgent interludes, and the sound is impossibly fun. “Pet Sounds” is often cited as one of the most influential albums of all time, and with good reason. Let this sprawling trip back in time sing with the analog sound it deserves.   
 

Before we sound off our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
 
“Hotel California” (1976)
The Eagles
 
 
 “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (1973)
Elton John
 
 
 “Born to Run” (1975)
Bruce Springsteen
 
 
 
 
 

#1: “The Beatles” a.k.a “The White Album” (1968)
The Beatles

 
The Beatles’ ninth studio album was mostly written in the spring of 1968, while the group attended a Transcendental Meditation retreat in Rishikesh, India. A far 'cry baby cry' from their early work, songs like 'Helter Skelter', 'Julia', and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' showcased a band at the peak of their prowess. Meanwhile, tracks like 'Yer Blues', 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road', and 'Happiness Is a Warm Gun' - to say nothing of 'Revolution 9'- showed they were as willing as ever to explore new ground. The White Album is an important piece of art, and vinyl copies are surprisingly easy to find, so there's no excuse for it to be missing from your collection for long.
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