Every week we will review albums that sound great on vinyl. They are judged by our ears, minds, and quality, as subjective as that is. We collaborate with disk jockies on WUTK to ensure our opinions are informed.

The Rolling Stones — “Exile on Main St.”
 
Thousands of dollars worth of smack. Rock stars living the lives of expatriates on the French Riveria — a sumptuous mansion with a sinister past. The notorious making of what has become the Rolling Stones’ most critically acclaimed album, the 1972 double LP “Exile on Main St.,” is sheer rock ‘n’ roll myth. Fleeing Britain’s exorbitant taxes, the Stones set up camp in the south of France in the spring of 1971 and began recording “Exile” in the basement of Keith Richard’s rented villa, Nellcote. The darkly glamorous manor itself was the Stones’ essence in manifest — having once been used as headquarters to Nazi officers during World War II, Versailles-like luxury mixed with swastikas on the tiled floors. This same ominously decadent vibe, stemming largely from the strung out Richards, is perfectly encapsulated within the album. The band explores a variety of styles — blues, country, gospel — all rife with ragged rock ‘n’ roll swagger, frenetic riffs, and nihilistic lyrics. Despite the group’s tough image, the album’s most sparkling moments include the vulnerably entreating “Happy” and “Loving Cup,” or the empowering “Sweet Virginia” and “Soul Survivor.”

Why vinyl — This album was roughly recorded in Nellcote’s basement with the aid of the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio — a relic of rock ‘n’ roll lore that was later used by Led Zeppelin, Lou Reed, Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac and the Who, among others. This roughness, however, is what the album, and indeed the Stones as a whole, is all about. It is not intended to be heard in a digitally perfected format. In the words of Richards himself, “To make a rock and roll record, technology is the least important thing.”

Listen to if — You prefer “rock ‘n’ roll” to the misnomer “classic rock,” find the Beatles a bit too cutesy, or have an appreciation for the blues.

Nat King Cole — “Unforgettable”

Perhaps it’s in the changing of the leaves or the increasing briskness of the air, but something about this time of year specifically makes putting a little jazz on the turntable feel so right. On tranquil autumn mornings when the coffee’s brewing, Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” first released in 1952, is one of my go-to records. Passed down to me by my grandmother, the idea of her and my grandfather dancing to this in their den makes for a sentimental vinyl selection, indeed. One would have a tricky time remaining stressed about life’s more trivial matters while listening to Cole’s smoky, soft baritone and soothing melodies, especially on songs like “Pretend” (with lyrics like “Remember anyone can dream, and nothing’s bad as it may seem”). With the aid of Les Baxter’s Orchestra on “Mona Lisa” and “Too Young,” “Unforgettable” in its entirety adds up to a wonderfully-rich listening experience and a superb reminder of why Cole is remembered today as one of the great ’50s jazz titans.

Why Vinyl — If nostalgia alone isn’t a sufficient reason, vinyl captures Cole’s full vocal styling (he claimed to smoke three packs of Kool menthols a day to reach his signature rich sound) while digital inevitably falls short.

Listen to if — You have been described as an old soul, frequent antique stores or wish you had been a bebopper.