Eight Iconic Vinyl Records By Women

In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are eight iconic albums by female artists, all with one thing in common: enduring appeal.

From seminal releases to modern classics, these records are best appreciated when experienced on vinyl. So fire up your turntable and immerse yourself in the warmth and depth of music that puts women at the center of the story!

1. Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse always seemed like an artist born decades too late. Her deep contralto and distinctive blend of jazz, soul and R&B alchemized into a neo-retro sound that’s drawn comparisons to the likes of Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. So it’s no surprise that Back to Black, produced by Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi and featuring Daptone Records’ funky house band, the Dap-Kings, exudes vintage vibes that practically beg to be enjoyed on vinyl. Seek out the half-speed Abbey Road master, a deluxe 2-LP set.

2. Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

Before there was Taylor Swift, there was Alanis Morissette. In 1995, the 19-year-old singer-songwriter had had enough with her label’s efforts to groom her into a pop princess, so together with producer Glen Ballard, she took her art in a radical new direction. Jagged Little Pill’s fusion of pop sensibility with uncut anger was bold for its time, but it clearly hit a nerve, with songs like “You Oughta Know” and “Ironic” becoming anthems of identity and angst that have inspired artists across generations. Look for vinyl pressings dated 2012 and later, which have been mastered and cut from the original master tapes by Chris Bellman.

3. Body Talk – Robyn

“Fembots have feelings, too,” dance-pop diva Robyn croons on this 2010 release. The Swedish superstar’s immaculately produced seventh album, originally issued as three EPs, mines all the feels, infusing buoyant club bangers with quirky lyrics and synthy Europop charm. Collaborations with Snoop Dog, Diplo, Röyksopp and Klas Åhlund, along with tracks like the shimmering Max Martin-produced breakup anthem “Dancing On My Own” prove that dance music can have a heart. Body Talk was re-issued as a compilation for Record Store Day in 2019; the white 180-gram limited edition features a bonus acoustic recording of “Stars 4-Ever.”

4. Blue – Joni Mitchell

Critically acclaimed and deeply personal, this landmark album is a masterpiece of introspection, exploring themes of love and sacrifice in 10 intimate songs that showcase Joni Mitchell’s unparalleled talent as a writer and musician. Minimal accompaniment (from sidemen including James Taylor and Stephen Stills) keeps the spotlight on Mitchell’s plaintive vocals and intricate guitar and dulcimer work, which are simply stunning. Many stellar vinyl pressings of Blue exist; the most coveted are those mastered by Bernie Grundman, Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman.

5. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin’s 1967 Atlantic Records debut, helmed by legendary producer Jerry Wexler, ushered in a new era for the then-24-year-old singer, and for R&B. Recorded by Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd and featuring the crack Muscle Shoals rhythm section, the album showcases Franklin at the height of her powers, set free from the confines of overproduced pop and revealing her truth as the Queen of Soul. From the title track to the iconic “Respect,” these are arguably the strongest performances of Franklin’s six-decade career. Purists often seek out mono versions of this album, such as the 2019 purple-and-white 180-gram version made from lacquers cut from the original mono tapes.

6. Jolene – Dolly Parton

In the 1970s, country music was in a period of transition as traditional country sounds began incorporating elements of folk, rock and pop. For Dolly Parton, the decade was a time of tremendous personal and professional growth. Jolene, her 13th album, debuted in 1974 following the singer’s departure from country star Porter Wagoner’s variety show. (The album’s biggest single, “I Will Always Love You,” was a goodbye letter to Wagoner following their professional parting of ways.) A rich sonic tapestry that perfectly complements Parton’s emotive vocals and mature storytelling, Jolene captivates with its authenticity and ageless appeal. While the original pressing is considered one of the best, audiophiles are already lining up for the summer 2024 release of the 50th anniversary pressing on 180-gram purple and blue galaxy vinyl.

7. What a Diff’rence a Day Makes – Dinah Washington

Celebrated as one of America’s finest vocalists, Dinah Washington effortlessly navigated genres from blues to gospel to jazz. What a Diff’rence a Day Makes marked a shift toward pop, featuring lush orchestral arrangements and smooth melodies that extended Washington’s appeal to wider audiences — ultimately earning Washington a Grammy® Award and a Top Ten hit with the title track — while preserving her inimitable vocal delivery and emotional depth. Although the album initially drew criticism from purists for its “mainstream” stylings, this sweeping, brooding vocal jazz masterpiece still bewitches, more than half-century after its release.

8. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman has been having a renaissance moment ever since she joined country singer Luke Combs to deliver a heartfelt rendition of her 1988 hit “Fast Car” at the recent Grammy Awards show. For many Millennials and Gen Z-ers watching, the performance was an introduction to the singer-songwriter, but for those who came of age with Chapman, it was a reminder that her music is as relevant and moving today as when she emerged on the scene nearly four decades ago. Her self-titled debut album tackles themes of social justice with poignancy and grace, and a vinyl listen reveals the many ways the sparse arrangements keep the focus on the warm timbre and quiet power of Chapman’s voice.

 

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