Unlike restaurants disallowing substitutions with orders, we’ll permit substitutions for this list. You can call an audible when compiling your own vinyl (and yes, you should own these on vinyl), so long as you score a mix of these artists. What you won’t find on this list is a buffet offering in the form of any “greatest hits” compilations. Like you, we wish this list could be 50-100 albums long, but getting you fired from your job for looking at your phone is not a Goliath priority. You can’t go wrong with these 12! Trust.
12. Otis Redding – The Dictionary of Soul
Did anyone do it quite like Otis? No. He was a bridge builder. Even ignoramuses who were steeped in racism during the mid-20th century found love for Otis. Otis died the year after releasing The Dictionary of Soul, in a tragic plane crash, when he was just reaching the height of his popularity. His most famous cut was the lazy ballad, “Sittin’ on The Dock of The Bay,” which was released on the album of the same name, but when he got to The Dictionary of Soul, he was hitting on all cylinders. One of his greatest achievements in music was the recording of “Try a Little Tenderness” which appears on Dictionary, and has been attempted to 100 percent failure at karaoke nights worldwide. There is simply no comparing oneself to Otis Redding. Had he lived beyond 26 years, he might have become the biggest thing in music.
11. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
For those who were offended by an earlier list proclaiming Axl Rose as one of the most overrated rock stars of all time, you can see how objective we are at Goliath. There is still plenty love for the hard rockers known as Guns N’ Roses. This album was released in 1987, but pressing play/dropping the needle in 2016 still delivers brassy rock ‘n’ roll by universal standard. The first cut was none other than “Welcome to The Jungle.” The album also featured “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Paradise City” and “Mr. Brownstone.” Axl and Slash were not messing around in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We’re sticking by the claim that they’re overrated on their own, but together: one of the greatest rock tandems in the history of music. It’s still pretty easy to get your hands on a copy of the original Appetite vinyl.
10. Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison
Johnny Cash was about as rock star as country music could handle. He was refreshingly unique in the musical landscape, and regardless of a preferred genre, most anyone can get down with Johnny. The best chance of scoring an original vinyl of At Folsom Prison is getting lucky at an old antique mall or flea market, but from time to time, they show their beautiful faces on Ebay and Amazon. The great thing about this album: it features some of the greatest concert banter you’ll ever audibly ingest. And in terms of the musical talent on the album, Johnny isn’t the only performer. The Statler Bros. and Carl Perkins also have a little bit of their magic in the mix. It’s also incredible to hear how respectful the prisoners were at the show—taking direction from record execs, and tour managers? This album is an icon.
9. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
It’s worth stating that any album on this list could be listed at number one. They were all recorded with pure platinum running through the veins of the artists, and none more so than David Bowie when he was recording as Ziggy Stardust. David was a master showman. After enjoying success with Ziggy Stardust, he decided to put Ziggy to death and move on—something that happened time and time again throughout David’s illustrious performance career. The album was released in 1972 and was another example of David’s foresight, and his doing everything with intent. Musically, it is all over the map, beginning with a smooth, percussive groove and ending with with a bold chord on strings. How pertinent is music from this album? “Starman” is used in the 2016 Academy Award Best Picture Nominee, The Martian.
8. Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic
The boys from Boston made the list. In part due to the fact that they’ve done their thing for so long, they have earned legendary rock ‘n’ roll status. They have traversed many-a-mountain, and trudged through many-a-valley and somehow, Steven Tyler still puts on an incredible show. When it comes to some of their best—and best known—music, people need look no further than Toys in the Attic from 1975. It was a maturation from the days of “Dream On,” graduating to huge hits such as “Walk This Way,” and possibly the best Aerosmith song ever recorded, “Sweet Emotion.” We’ll pass on that Armageddon love theme stuff. When you hear the various singles from Toys in the Attic, it immediately transports you back to the mid-1970s. And for fans of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, could you imagine the film without the influence of this album?
7. Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced
Jimi Hendrix lived so fast, and in such bold print that it seemed he had to have died at a ripe, old age. He recorded so much music, and he hopped from the United States to the UK like such a pro, he must have been at least 40 when he OD’d…? Nope. Only 27. It is incredible that someone can have so much influence at such a young age, but that’s the way of the world. The same could be said about Otis Redding, but he came along just before the summer of 1969 when things really changed. Here’s the deal with Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced may not even be his greatest album. In fact, it’s probably not, but no musical library can be without it, it is so important to the face of contemporary jams.
6. Pearl Jam – Ten
What a way to ring in the 1990s! Pearl Jam was born of several different musical projects in Seattle, and came to fruition when the band met Eddie Vedder and enlisted his services to write and sing some songs. Their first album was entitled Ten because Jeff Ament’s favorite basketball player—or his favorite name in basketball—Mookie Blaylock, wore number 10. If there is one album that serves as a definitive example of the era, this is it. Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana almost fit the bill, but something about Pearl Jam, and specifically this album, crossed from alternative to mainstream and boldly proclaimed that the best music being made during the 1990s was outside the box. In terms of track play on an album, Ten is solid from top to bottom. The pacing and placement of the music is near perfect. It’s like a great film.
5. Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours
Wanna hear what happens to an icon when he marries another icon, and the two struggle to be faithful to one another in the marriage? For the love of blues-soaked jazz standards, In the Wee Small Hours is just that. Frank Sinatra left his first wife to pursue a relationship with Ava Gardner. The two married in 1951, and as crazy as they were about the other, they weren’t very good to one another. Four years into their marriage, Frank recorded this album. It may be the most honest, and soulful of all his albums. There’s no joyous “Fly Me to The Moon,” but if ever the whiskey in a glass could sing a song to the ice cubes keeping it company, it would probably sound just like this. Frank and Ava divorced in 1957, and she never married again.
4. Portishead – Dummy
Do you know this album from 1994? Portishead is an English band, named after an English town, consisting of three fellas and a sullen female. Okay, she’s not actually sullen. Beth Gibbons is pretty damn cool, but everything about this album is soaked in sullen song. And it’s perfect for…well…doing the things adults do. It’s also a good one for single gents to have, as any liberated, independent chick will flip through your collection and pause for this cause. Just be sure to avoid calling this woman a chick. Addressing the album, it gave birth to two huge 1990s hits that made their way into the mainstream: “Sour Times,” and “Glory Box.” Both are most excellent selections for any mixtape offering, or any honeymoon mix. And Portishead is still doing their thing, though they never touched upon the unique success enjoyed with Dummy.
3. Outkast – Aquemini
Do you like to get crunk? Before that word became a thing, it was a thing, and Outkast did it. They did it well. Aquemini is the rap duo’s most under-appreciated album, and it’s also their best. It didn’t win the Grammy for Album of The Year like Speakerboxx/The Love Below, but it certainly hooked the ears of musical critics. Andre 3000 and Big Boi were doing things differently than anyone else in the rap game. The East and West coast influence could be heard in the flow, but they were so infused with the American South—the gospel influence and Southern subculture—nothing else sounded quite like it. To this day, nothing does. They were crewed early on with the Dungeon Family: Cee-Lo Green, Killer Mike, Big Rube, Sleepy Brown, the list goes on. Erykah Badu lays down on “Liberation,” which is still next level in 2016.
2. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
It’s understood that not everyone is a fan of The Beatles, but generally, those individuals are only familiar with offerings from the early years when the band was recording a lot of music that was written for them. When they got into their own head spaces, they did offer up some incredibly imagined and well-executed music. This is especially true when considering the fact that their music needed to sell. Who knows where they’d have gone if they could have ventured into the beginnings of progressive rock. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band may be the best example of the aforementioned, opening with the title track and closing with one of their finest, “A Day In The Life.”
1. Jeff Buckley – Grace
The world would be a better place if Jeff Buckley was still alive. In some ways, he is very much alive and influential. Every year, someone discovers Grace for the first time, looks at the album cover, listens to it, thinks it was probably recorded in 2012, and look to see if Jeff is playing anywhere nearby. Jeff has been dead for almost 20 years. It’s quite remarkable. The impact he made on music by releasing one studio album is unparalleled. Jeff’s influence was pure freedom for so many artists, and those artists continue to cover him, write songs about him and emulate his virtuoso vocals and underrated guitar skills. Grace is complex. It’s more palatable now than when it was released in 1994, when his peers were playing everything in power chords. Does it hold up? It’s timeless.