Best Soul Albums on Vinyl: 20 Must-Have Records for Your Collection
Best Soul Albums on Vinyl: 20 Must-Have Records for Your Collection
Appealing to listeners across the generations, soul music's timeless appeal lies in its ability to touch the depths of human emotions, so it’s understandable how it has captivated the hearts of vinyl collectors for so many years. The warm, analog sound of classic soul albums on a turntable adds an extra layer of authenticity and nostalgia, immersing collectors in a sensory experience that instantly transports you back to a golden era where soul was the soundtrack of social revolution and cultural transformation.
From soul albums that have become cultural touchstones to the hidden gems waiting to be discovered, we’ve compiled a list of the best soul albums of all time to pay homage to the golden voices who have truly earned their place in history. Join us as we navigate the best soul albums on vinyl and get ready to appreciate the innovative sounds, heartfelt lyrics, and infectious rhythms that have made these albums so iconic…
20) The Temptations - Masterpiece (1973)
Released in February 1973 amid a flourishing era of soul music, The Temptations’ sixteenth studio album ‘Masterpiece’ was a passion project of producer Norman Whitfield. Bringing their pioneering brand of psychedelic-soul to the forefront, The Temptations are at the top of their game here, wowing the listener with their impeccable vocal harmonies and smooth vocal prowess. Often delving into themes of love, the proto-disco funk of ‘Law of the Land’ proudly wears its social conscience on its sleeve, acknowledging the chains of conformity we’re often shackled by. Crafting a sonic masterpiece that transcends time and resonates with the depths of the soul, ‘Masterpiece’ is not only a cherished relic of the past but a hugely enriching listen that will be an exquisite addition to any vinyl enthusiast's record collection.
19) Ann Peebles - I Can’t Stand the Rain (1974)
A bewitching blend of heart-wrenching lyrics and lush arrangements, Ann Peebles’ 1974 LP ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain’ is an all-weather classic unleashing a cascade of poignant narratives with her crystal-clear voice. From the opening notes of the titular track, where raindrops delicately dance on the windowpane, to the flood of rhythms that pool in your ear canals, the album takes you on a weather-worn journey positively streaming with themes of love and loss. Met with a deluge of critical acclaim and birthing a UK Top 5 hit single that would later be sampled in the late 1990s by Missy Elliott on ’The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)’, 'I Can't Stand the Rain' remains a soulful masterpiece that resonates deep within, making it an essential purchase for any vinyl collector looking to bolster your collection of classic soul albums.
18) Wilson Pickett - The Exciting Wilson Pickett (1966)
Exuding a magnetic energy that cements its place among the best soul albums on vinyl, Wilson Pickett’s 1966 LP 'The Exciting Wilson Pickett' finds him at the pinnacle of his career. From the very start, Pickett's soulful rasp ignites the air, grabbing your attention and leaving no room for indifference. From the exuberant anthems that compel bodies to move (Land of 1,000 Dances) to the heart-wrenching ballads that tug at the soul's deepest corners, Pickett’s charisma is undeniable with a voice that resonates with fiery passion. By encapsulating the essence of Pickett’s raw talent and his electrifying stage presence, 'The Exciting Wilson Pickett' is easily one of the best soul albums on vinyl, particularly for those who appreciate Atlantic Records and cherish blasts of the horn-toting danceability and street-smart grooves.
17) Donny Hathaway - Extension of a Man (1973)
With a voice that seems to transcend mortal limits, Donny Hathaway's soulful timbre on his fourth LP ‘Extension of a Man’ continues to resonate with sublime beauty to this very day. Released in June 1973, it was the final album Hathaway ever released and remains his magnum opus, firmly securing its place among the best soul albums on vinyl. From the tender ballads that caress the heart to the groove-infused tracks that ignite the spirit, each song is a revelation, a portal into Hathaway's soul, where profound introspection and spiritual transcendence intermingle. Showcasing Hathaway's remarkable musicality and emotive depth, the lush arrangements on ‘Extensions of a Man’ are a breathtaking listening experience like no other, making it a cherished gem in any record collection.
16) Roberta Flack - First Take (1969)
Full of jazz-infused bops that inspire the spirit (Compared to What) as well as poignant ballads that stir pangs of heartbreak (The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face), Roberta Flack’s 1969 LP ‘First Take’ is an enchanting marvel. With a voice that effortlessly traverses realms of vulnerability and strength, Flack captivates listeners with her smooth voice and emotive delivery. Exuding great warmth and emotional intimacy, this was her debut album, so it’s truly remarkable how Flack’s effortless vocal command and heartfelt lyrics so elegantly captured the spirit of her era. More than deserving of a place on our list of the best soul albums on vinyl, ‘First Take’ is a cherished treasure that deserves a sacred place among any record collection.
15) Sam Cooke - Ain’t That Good News (1964)
As the final studio album to be released by Sam Cooke before his death at the age of 33, his 1964 LP ‘Ain’t That Good News’ proved to his epitaph that proved why he was one of the greatest soul artists of his generation. Yielding hit singles such as jaunty ‘Another Saturday Night’ and the lushly-composed civil rights commentary ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, it’s a truly historic album where Cooke’s incomparable voice glides over impeccably-arranged melodies with heartwarming precision. Not only a reminder of Sam Cooke’s extraordinary talent but also an example of how soul music can transcend social boundaries, ‘Ain’t That Good News’ secures its rightful place among the best soul albums on vinyl.
14) Shuggie Otis: Inspiration Information (1974)
A hidden gem for soul music fans, Snuggie Otis’ 1974 LP ‘Inspiration Information’ straddles the line between soulful introspection and cosmic exploration with some delightfully psychedelic touches. Featuring some early experiments with drum machines, it’s a wonderfully offbeat album that puts an otherworldly spin on Californian funk while showcasing Otis' prodigious talent through his virtuosic guitar playing. Sadly, the album flopped upon its release and Otis was dropped from his record label, but in time ‘Inspiration Information’ has come to be regarded as a minor masterpiece in its own right. Consider it a soul aficionado’s choice, if you will, but if you dig Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s retro side project Silk Sonic, you’ll love the sort of vibe Shuggie was shooting for.
13) Minnie Riperton - Come to My Garden (1970)
Blossoming with sentimentality and earnestness, Minnie Riperton’s 1970 debut LP ‘Come to My Garden’ introduced the world to her extraordinary vocal range and her ability to captivate audiences with a pure, angelic timbre. Essentially a work of ‘chamber soul’ with acoustic ballads and a mellow range of flowery orchestral arrangements, Riperton’s enchanting voice guides us through an autumnal landscape of introspection and joy. So charming you can literally feel the leaves crunching beneath your feet, the Chicago-born singer would quickly go on to become one of soul music’s biggest stars, eventually scoring herself a US No.1 with ‘Lovin’ You’ in 1975. Sadly, Minnie Riperton died of breast cancer at the age of 31 in 1979, but the music she left behind with albums such as ‘Come to My Garden’ leaves little doubt over her enduring legacy as a true soul luminary.
12) Bill Withers - Just As I Am (1971)
Over a mosaic of poignant acoustic guitar tunes and gentle ballads, Bill Withers’ 1971 LP ‘Just As I Am’ saw him leave his factory job as a toilet seat manufacturer to become one of the great soul singers of his generation. Thanks to iconic hits like ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ‘Grandma’s Hands’, this opus brings out the best of Withers’ introspective songwriting and world-weary vocals to craft a deeply affecting exploration of love, life, and self-discovery. His folksy take on soul gave Bill Withers' a weight of authenticity and the sincerity of his lyrics still resonates with listeners today, cutting to the heart of the human experience with each heartfelt note. As one of the best soul albums on vinyl, 'Just As I Am' not only solidified Withers’ place in music history but also leaves an indelible mark on the souls who are lucky enough to hear it.
11) Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis (1968)
A musical tour de force and a landmark blue-eyed soul release, ‘Dusty in Memphis’ was released in September 1968 and proved to be British singer Dusty Springfield’s finest moment. With a voice of unmistakable warmth and tenderness, it with this album that she scored herself a Top 10 hit with the country-soul twang of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ and gave a pitch-perfect rendition of Alan and Marilyn Bergman's Academy Award-winning song ‘Windmills of Your Mind’. As one of the best soul albums on vinyl, it’s a masterclass in vocal expression, as Springfield effortlessly evokes a spectrum of emotions, ranging from vulnerable whispers to powerful, spine-tingling belting. Endearingly graceful and sparkling with nostalgic charm, ‘Dusty in Memphis’ is one of few albums by a white soul artist that still holds up with the very best, from the sultry ballads that exude sensuality to the more infectious, groove-laden tracks.
10) Millie Jackson - Caught Up (1974)
A concept album delving into the intricacies of infidelity and marital breakdown with unflinching honesty, Millie Jackson’s 1974 LP ‘Caught Up’ brought her remarkable storytelling ability to the fore. Exploring the highs and lows of a tumultuous relationship, Jackson paints a vivid picture of love's complexities on ‘(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right’ by singing from the perspective of a mistress having an affair with a married man, before blindsiding us on Side B by switching to the perspective of his wife on ‘It’s All Over but the Shouting’. Conveying the anguish, desire, and betrayal that permeate the album's narrative, Jackson's ability to tackle sensitive subjects and deliver a classic soul record that not only entertains but is also deeply thought-provoking was a real game-changer. With gripping lyrics and uptempo tracks that exude passion and defiance, Millie Jackson's 'Caught Up' is a soulful revelation that deserves its position among the best soul albums ever etched into vinyl.
9) James Carr - You Got My Mind Messed Up (1967)
Originally released in 1967, the deep Southern soul legend James Carr’s debut album ‘You Got My Mind Messed Up’ immerses listeners in a world of heartache, longing, and personal struggles. With Carr’s hauntingly soulful voice, each track on this record conveys raw emotions with captivating sincerity, such as on the cheater’s anthem ’The Dark End of the Street’. By bringing us a vivid narrative that explores the depths of human relationships and the shadows of forbidden love, the song continues to resonate with its haunting depiction of an illicit love affair. Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Pouring Water on a Drowning Man’ and ’These Ain’t Raindrops’ are truly beguiling, capturing broodiness and heartache in all of its forms and wrapping it up in one of the best soul albums on vinyl ever to be recorded.
8) Terry Callier - What Color Is Love (1972)
Fusing soul, jazz, folk and psychedelia into a refreshingly original stew of styles, Terry Callier’s 1972 LP ‘What Color Is Love’ is like watching the colours of a rainbow ripple over the waters of a lake. Deeply romantic and with no hint of a cliché in sight, the songs melt into one another, from the stripped-down acoustic splendour of ‘Dancing Girl’ to the swampy marshland stomp of ‘You Goin’ Miss Your Candyman’, harnessing down-to-earth lyrical elements with feverishly poetic candour. As nothing short of transcendent masterpiece that effortlessly earns its place among the best soul albums on vinyl, you simply must listen to ‘What Color Is Love’ to remind yourself how underrated Terry Callier truly is.
7) Al Green - I’m Still in Love with You (1972)
Having already made his name crafting steamy love ballads simmering with lustful yearnings, Al Green’s 1972 LP ‘I’m Still in Love with You’ is arguably his most gorgeous-sounding record worthy of a place among the best soul albums on vinyl. Rarely does music sound as lush and sensuous as this, from the whispered pillow-talk of the title track to the waiting-in-the-boudoir organ groove of Love and Happiness, each song spells out a deeply romantic bid for a late-night embrace. Accompanied by slick bass work from Leroy Hodges and some nagging rhythms from Al Jackson, Jr., Al Green’s voice ranges from hushed persuasion to desperate falsetto as if he’s wooing a potential love interest like his life depended on it. Perfect for slow dances and making your most amorous feelings painfully obvious, ‘I’m Still in Love with You’ is a must-listen for any soul music lover.
6) Aretha Franklin - Lady Soul (1968)
An unparalleled masterpiece that effortlessly claims its spot among the best soul albums on vinyl, Aretha Franklin's 1968 LP 'Lady Soul' properly established her as the undeniable Queen of Soul. With a voice that drips with honeyed elegance and raw power, Franklin showcases her formidable range and versatility, leaving listeners spellbound from start to finish. Classic songs like ‘Chain of Fools’ and ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ are a testament to Aretha’s genius, drawing the listener into her world of heartache, love, and empowerment. Seamlessly blending blues, gospel, and R&B, Franklin's voice dances across the melodies like a celestial enchantress, invoking feelings of awe and transcendence. Needless to say, ‘Lady Soul’ is an essential vinyl record to add to your collection, particularly if you are a fan of classic soul records from the 1960s.
5) Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul (1969)With his deep, bass-baritone voice, Isaac Hayes is one of soul music’s greatest lotharios, and his 1969 LP ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ remains a psych-flavoured odyssey years ahead of its time. Solidifying Hayes’ reputation as a visionary and trailblazer, it’s hard to deny the influence he had on the likes of Barry White and Marvin Gaye’s later albums, each of whom owed a considerable debt to Hayes’ soothing mix of funky minimalism and unashamedly sexy vocals. By turning Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘Walk On By’ into a 12-minute psychodrama of a lonely soul pining for an ex-lover, and creating a spoken-word prologue to extend Glen Campbell’s country torch song ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ into an 18-minute epic, this album finds Hayes at his most ambitious. Needless to say, ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ is a treasure worthy of being discovered by soul music fans and deserves to be the crown jewel in any record collection.
4) Otis Redding - Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965)
Released in September 1965, 'Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul' is a timeless masterpiece that showcases the unparalleled talent and crossover appeal of the Stax legend. This vinyl gem captures the same magnetic presence Redding brought to the Monterey Pop Festival, proving that soul music could appeal as much to white fans as it could to the Black community. From the captivating opening notes of 'Ole Man Trouble' to heartfelt ballads such as 'I've Been Loving You Too Long', Redding's expressive voice conveys the highs and lows of the human experience with grit-filled gumption. With rich guitar textures, electrifying energy, and impeccable song sequencing, 'Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul' set the blueprint for what a classic soul record should be for years to come. Symbolic of an era where strength and vulnerability went hand in hand, this album solidified Redding's enduring legacy and is not only an essential addition to any vinyl record collection but also a bona fide classic in its own right.
3) Curtis Mayfield - Curtis (1970)
With his velvety-smooth falsetto and socially conscious lyrics, Curtis Mayfield's debut LP 'Curtis' effortlessly strings together a tapestry of soulful sounds like weaving fine silk. As a poignant exploration on the intricacies of love, politics, and the human condition, it's an ambitious undertaking that changed the trajectory of soul music forever, anticipating both Marvin Gaye's and Stevie Wonder's moves towards political outspokenness in the years following its release. From get-up-and-go horn arrangements on 'Move On Up' to the introspective musings of 'The Other Side of Town', every song on 'Curtis' is a meticulously crafted masterpiece showcasing Mayfield's ability to merge infectious grooves with profound storytelling. With lush arrangements, thoughtful lyrics, and Mayfield's unmistakable voice, this album is a timeless gem deserving a place among the pantheon of the best soul albums ever created. A must-have for any vinyl collection, 'Curtis' is the best introduction anyone needs if they want to explore the genius of Curtis Mayfield.
2) Marvin Gaye - What’s Going On (1971)
In 1971, Marvin Gaye gifted the world with his magnum opus, 'What's Going On,' a soulful masterpiece that transcends boundaries of time and genre. With poignant lyrics, lush orchestrations, and Gaye's instantly recognisable vocals, this vinyl gem encapsulates the spirit of an era marked by social unrest and the quest for understanding. Delving into themes of love, war, and the human experience with unparalleled depth and vulnerability, this seminal release is a sonic journey that is just as painfully relevant today as it was the day it was released. From the title track's haunting melody to infectious groove of 'Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)', 'What's Going On' serves as both a mirror reflecting the turmoil of its time and a beacon of hope for the future. Marvin Gaye's artistic vision and profound introspection shine brightly, making this album an essential addition to any record collection. As proof of the power of music to provoke thought and inspire change, 'What's Going On' is undeniably one of the best soul albums on vinyl ever created.
1) Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life (1976)
The boy wonder of Motown had all grown up by the mid-1970s, capping off a run of classic soul records with his 1976 double-LP 'Songs in the Key of Life'. Quite simply a masterpiece of near-epic proportions, the album showcasing Wonder's unmatched ability to blend soul, funk, jazz, pop, and much more, into a diverse smorgasbord of musical eclecticism. From infectious grooves of 'Sir Duke' to the funky blast of nostalgia on 'I Wish', each song is a testament to Wonder's mastery of his craft. Still boasting his charmingly boyish vocals, imaginative arrangements, and thought-provoking lyrics, Wonder takes the listener on an emotional journey that evokes joy, love, and introspection. The album is a treasure trove of musical brilliance, effortlessly blending infectious rhythms with heartfelt melodies, effortlessly hopping from social commentary to spiritual meditations with undeniable panache. 'Songs in the Key of Life' is a must-have for any vinyl enthusiast's collection, a true masterpiece that showcases soul music at its most sprawling and ambitious, and that's why it tops our list of the best soul albums on vinyl.
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