The best classic/progressive rock vinyl albums?
April 25, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for the best prog/classic rock vinyl albums?

My father in law is moving and has gifted me his record collection and his incredibly loud old floor speakers, which is awesome. This of course has led to me justifying the purchase of a record player and new receiver(!), along with a bunch of used records on Amazon.

I have gotten a little carried away, and should shut it down for a bit (as per my wife's request, and reasonably so). Before I do, what Albums (not greatest hits or compilations) do I need to own? I am looking for your top 3 best albums of all time.

Music I love: Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Yes, The Cars ( I already own these).
Music I hate: Peter, Paul and Mary, Bruce Springsteen (yes really).

Help me pick the last 3 records I will buy for at least 6 months, thanks.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Rush: 2112
posted by klausman at 12:08 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Gentle Giant: Acquiring the Taste
King Crimson: Red
posted by saladin at 12:09 PM on April 25, 2011

In terms of Prog, I find that a good rule of thumb is to only bother with albums from 1970 through 1974. The genre pretty much tanks after that, aside from Rush and Supertramp.

My personal favourite is Gentle Giant. If you like Yes, you will like Gentle Giant.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:13 PM on April 25, 2011

"Classic Rock"
Brian Eno - Another Green World
Roxy Music - Country Life

Emerson Lake & Palmer - S/T
Genesis - Foxtrot
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:14 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Muddy & The Wolf on Chess Records. (Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf)

Also appearing on the album Paul Butterfield, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Ian Stewart, et al.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:15 PM on April 25, 2011

Mentioned earlier in the Blue....Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick.
posted by Gungho at 12:22 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Rolling Stones, "Exile on Main Street". A MUST for hearing on vinyl through some honkin' big speakers.

The Stooges, "Raw Power". I'm of two minds about the remastered edition. On the one hand, "Shake Appeal" will knock your house down. On the other hand, that thin, hissing guitar sound is the one I first knew and loved.

Velvet Underground & Nico. Because it is the template for pretty much every album made after it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:26 PM on April 25, 2011

Rolling Stones, "Exile on Main Street". A MUST for hearing on vinyl through some honkin' big speakers.

I'd have said "Let It Bleed".

There's also The "Franks' Wild Years" trilogy from Tom Waits ("Swordfishtrombones", "Rain Dogs", "Frank's Wild Years"), but if you want only one of the three, go with "Rain Dogs." Mind you, this is unlike ANY of the stuff you've mentioned, but worth it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:29 PM on April 25, 2011

Dark Side of the Moon, by Pink Floyd (als The Wall)

Layla by Derek and the Dominos

Wheels of Fire, Cream
posted by Ideefixe at 12:29 PM on April 25, 2011

The three (classic) albums I've probably played the most on my record player are:

The Beach Boy- Wild Honey
Leo Kottke - Six and Twelver String Guitar
Pink Floyd - Animals

I don't know if you're looking for ANYTHING modern, but the Sea and Cake's "The Fawn" is probably my go-to-sunday-morning-vinyl-album
posted by phelixshu at 12:39 PM on April 25, 2011

I like The Who's Quadrophoenia really loud on vinyl.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:39 PM on April 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Blue Oyster Cult's "Workshop of the Telescopes"
posted by jgirl at 12:46 PM on April 25, 2011

My favorites on vinyl growing up were King Crimson's Court of the Crimson King, and Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 12:56 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

My three albums that are in heavy rotation here, and also fit your wants (but 2 progs, one classic):

Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire
King Crimson - Discipline
Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
posted by waitangi at 1:14 PM on April 25, 2011

Just popped in to recommend Genesis's "Selling England By The Pound" and "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway".
posted by reenum at 1:23 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Since you asked for a list of three:

The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds
Genesis: Nursery Cryme
Procol Harum: A Salty Dog
posted by jbickers at 1:37 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Emerson Lake and Palmer's "Brain Salad Surgery".

I'm not at all religious, but their version of Jerusalem is one of my favorite tracks to use to test out speakers/headphones. Plus, the Giger cover is pretty awesome.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:44 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh jeezus, man, too many recommendations to count!

Rolling Stones — Exile on Mainstreet. A dense, slick classic mix.

Pink Floyd — Ummagumma. Early Floyd PWNS later Floyd. If someone tells you the first Floyd album you should buy is Dark Side, you can ignore them.

Frank Zappa — Freak Out. Crazy half-serious music by an incredibly talented band.

Silver Apples — Contact. Weird, weird fantastic space music.

Third Ear Band — Alchemy. Spacey psych rock that sounds great on the hi-fi.

Robert Palmer — Clues. Absolutely solid pop that bridges between classic rock and new wave. If you like The Cars, you'll love this album. Plus you can usually find it used for around five bucks.

The Fugs — First Album. More semi-serious rock from fantastic musicians.

Sand — Ultrasonic Seraphim. Spacey kraut prog.

Tangerine Dream — Zeit. Even spacier kraut prog.

Massive Attack — Mezzanine. Not at all what you asked for, but fucking mindblowing on great speakers.

The Byrds — Notorious Byrd Brothers. Their start towards country, but still with a hell of a lot of jangly psych. I can't tell if you just don't dig the country sounds, so I won't rec Sweetheart of the Rodeo, but that's also pretty great.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young — Deja Vu. Hippy music that just sounds like sweet buttered love.

Funkadelic — s/t, Maggot Brain. On the funkier side, but still firmly ensconced in classic rock. Few folks remember how proggy their compositions get.

Sweet — Desolation Boulevard. "Ready, Steve?" Best known for Ballroom Blitz, these guys kill glam awesome.

T. Rex — Electric Warrior. Sweet and smooth and rich, like you wouldn't believe.

Queen — Sheer Heart Attack. Between this and Night at the Opera, you'll have all the Queen you need, and you need some Queen.

Black Sabbath — Paranoid, Masters of Reality, Vol. 4. Blues riffs played slowly. Also, wizards.

Cylob — Mood Bells. It's "IDM," but comes out of the Tubular Bells tradition and sounds amazing.

Beta Band — 3 EPs. They're neo-prog, or whatever, but they really do sound pretty great on the hi-fi.

Ennio Morricone — For A Few Dollars More. My favorite of his soundtracks, and totally worth blasting loud if you want to feel badass some afternoon.

Lard Free — s/t. Awesome kraut freakouts. I found mine as an Italian "reissue" a couple years back, but it does go in and out of legitimate print, as far as I can tell.

David Bowie — Heroes, Station to Station, Hunky Dory, Low, Lodger. All of those albums sound amazing and have a high killer-to-filler ratio. Station to Station is my favorite, but reasonable people may differ.

Depeche Mode — Violator. Really a great sounding album from the more melancholy end of synthpop.

Lou Reed — Transformer, Berlin. Both stone-cold LP classics.

Big Star — #1 Record/Radio City. You can usually find a reissue with both, then jam out to the greatest power pop ever.

Faces — Long Player, A Nod Is As Good As A Wink… and Ooh La La. Those three albums challenge Rolling Stones for "Greatest '70s rock act."

Sparks — Propaganda, Angst In My Pants, Kimono My House. Three classic albums from arch pop wits.

Talk Talk — Laughing Stock, Spirit of Eden. Talk Talk abandoned their synthpop origins to make a couple of classic hi-fi albums in the late '80s, early '90s. They're amazing.

King Crimson — In The Court of the Crimson King, Starless and Bible Black. This is prog, often hard and weird but also whimsical and light. Blows Rush away.

Blue Cheer — Vincenbus Eruptum. This is garage rock and classic rock and a crazy explosion of distorted proto-punk.

Twink — Think Pink. The other guy from T. Rex put out a little-known psych album that's pretty fantastic.

The Clash — Sandinista, London Calling. Either probably could have been trimmed significantly, but in terms of essential vinyl, these guys are canonical.

Acid Mothers Temple — New Geocentric World… You only ever really need one Acid Mothers Temple album, but you need at least one and this is pretty awesome.

Babe Ruth — First Base. A solid, diverse and just plain fun classic rock album that's usually pretty cheap used.

Brian Eno — Here Come The Warm Jets. Weird and goofy, but pretty essential.

Can — Future Days, Tago Mago, Soon Over Babaluma. Unfuckwithable Kraut geniuses, at least for these three albums.

Hawkwind — Hall of the Mountain King, Space Ritual. If you like prog, pick up some Hawkwind. Bonus: Contains Lemmy.

Joan Jett — Bad Reputation. One of the best rock albums ever, and usually only a couple bucks used.

Little Feat — s/t. Hippy country classic rock. The rest of their albums kinda blow, but this one is brilliant.

Love — Four Sail, Forever Changes, s/t. All brilliant, all brilliantly mixed. Just amazing power pop.

Roxy Music — Country Life, Stranded. Without Eno, they were even better, believe it or not.

Soft Machine — Third. I like a lot of their albums, but this is pretty fantastic prog fusion stuff and you should start there.

Traffic — Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, John Barleycorn Must Die. Great titles, great musicians.

Yardbirds — Roger the Engineer. It's a concept album from some of rock's all-stars.

The Zombies — Odyssey and Oracle. Brilliant pop on the softer side. Better than Pet Sounds.

I think that's a pretty huge list for you, and I feel like I'm just getting started, so better to lay off.

One more bit of advice: I didn't even bother with jazz, but from about 1960-1975, jazz was at its peak and sounds amazingly good on album. Please ask another question so that I can make sure you buy In A Silent Way and A Love Supreme and all the other mind-blowingly awesome jazz albums that your hi-fi craves.
posted by klangklangston at 1:48 PM on April 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

ELO - A New World Record
posted by Thorzdad at 1:49 PM on April 25, 2011

Not sure if they're my top 3 of all time, but...

Brian Eno, "Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)" -- the groove for the last song on Side 1 ends before the tone arm hits the automatic return limit, so you get a loop of beautiful ambient sound that plays for as long as you are unable to get your chilled-out ass off the couch to lift the needle. It's a vinyl must-have (assuming the reissues have preserved this feature...).

Talking Heads, "Remain in Light"

"Black Noise" by FM
posted by newmoistness at 2:03 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

The James Gang, 'Yer Album' (bonus for full manual record players: a secret message at the end of each side)

Humble Pie, 'Rock On'

Mott the Hoople, 'Mott'
posted by Bron at 2:18 PM on April 25, 2011

I just got The Clash's Combat Rock on vinyl last weekend, and I was absolutely blown away by how much better it sounded than I was used to (on CD). It's also a freaking fantastic album.
posted by General Malaise at 2:35 PM on April 25, 2011

My top best albums of all time don't fit your criteria very well. But for Prog I am seconding both King Crimson mentions from above: In The Court of the Crimson King (for "21st Century Schizoid Man" alone) or Discipline (for being a more consistent album overall). To my ears I would agree they blow Rush away. That said, I love dropping the needle on "Tom Sawyer" from Moving Pictures. There's a reason it's in a scene from some movie somewhere.

AC/DC is classic rock to me. I'm surprised there hasn't been some mention of High Voltage, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep, Highway to Hell, or Back in Black by someone yet. That said I only have High Voltage on vinyl and so can't recommend the vinyl experience of the others to you though I might prefer them as albums.
posted by safetyfork at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2011

So many great albums already listed, but I'd like to second ELO. Any of their early albums are made for vinyl and loud speakers. Specifically, I'll recommend: On The Third Day, Eldorado, Face the Music, in addition to New World Record suggested above.

And I don't know that it's actually a great album, but "Venus and Mars" by Wings does hit that mid-70s sweet spot pretty hard. I'd love to hear "Magneto and Titanium Man" on big speakers again. (I'd also like to be that young again, too.)
posted by benito.strauss at 3:04 PM on April 25, 2011

I've always enjoyed Machine Head by Deep Purple. Great classic rock album; sounds fab on vinyl. And AC/DC for sure. Hells Bells, for instance, is really improved (in my mind) with the slight characteristic crackle of vinyl at the beginning.
posted by Go Banana at 3:50 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can — Future Days, Tago Mago, Soon Over Babaluma. Unfuckwithable Kraut geniuses, at least for these three albums.

I would like to second this, and add Ege Bamyasi to the list.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 5:46 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ah... so many excellent suggestions so far.

The Moody Blues: Deram Records, 1967-1972

* 2.1 Days Of Future Passed
* 2.2 In Search of the Lost Chord
* 2.3 On the Threshold of a Dream
* 2.4 To Our Children's Children's Children
* 2.5 A Question of Balance
* 2.6 Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Seventh Sojourn
posted by ovvl at 5:59 PM on April 25, 2011

Response by poster: Oh man.

I went to Dingus day, and now I have a ton of new music to check out. Thanks for all of the suggestions. Looks like I might buy a couple more albums than originally planned (again).
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 6:14 PM on April 25, 2011

They've already all been mentioned, but if we're going with classic vinyl, here's my top three:
The Who - Tommy
Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick
The Moody Blues - In Search Of The Lost Chord

(and I'll toss in Pink Floyd - Animals as the Honorable Mention)
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:57 PM on April 25, 2011

Oh, duh!

"Who's Next!" (Imagine this scream on those huge speakers.)

Or those speakers would be amazing for the drum break at the end of Peter Gabriel's Rhythm Of The Heat. A roommate of mine said he used to sit friends in front of his own speakers and put that song on, and when that drum part came on he'd crank the volume and the bass at the same time to blow their minds. One person said it even felt like his heartbeat had been re-calibrated.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:22 PM on April 25, 2011

Oh, hell, I messed up the link for "Rhythm Of The Heat" and I don't know how. Here's the whole song; the drum break at the end.

Song's on his album "Security."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:25 PM on April 25, 2011

"Classic Rock"
Brian Eno - Another Green World

No knock on your universe, but it's not this one.
posted by tremspeed at 7:57 PM on April 25, 2011

Genesis, A Trick of The Tail
posted by luckynerd at 7:59 PM on April 25, 2011

This thread (like every recommend-me-music thread) is just full of head explode (Exile on Main St... Slick???) but I'll recommend two that are both classic, rocking, and progressive:

Faust - Faust IV
Move - Shazam
posted by tremspeed at 8:04 PM on April 25, 2011

Many excellent suggestions here. Let me add:
Kansas, Leftoverture
and reiterate:
The Who, Tommy
Pink Floyd, Animals
posted by bleeb at 9:15 PM on April 25, 2011

Many good suggestions above, a little off the beaten path, try Automatic Fine Tuning. YT1, YT2.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:47 AM on April 26, 2011

Jethro Tull - Minstrel in the Gallery
Genesis - Wind and Wuthering, if you are into lots of keyboard sounds
James Gang - James Gang Rides Again
My thinking is that anything from the period before CD's is most likely going to sound better on vinyl, as that is what it was mixed for.
posted by davismbagpiper at 11:30 AM on April 26, 2011

Our Tannoy speakers go up to 11, and we love Bonzo Dog Band.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:02 PM on April 26, 2011

It has been mentioned on Mefi before, but if you get a chance, check out Wolfgang's Vault. Could have a lot of the music listed here.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:04 PM on April 27, 2011

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