Best vinyl box sets: essential records for your collection
The ultimate vinyl box sets you need to own today.
There’s a sure sign this latest resurrection of the vinyl format is reaching maturity. And it’s not that you can buy vinyl LPs in your local supermarket. No, nothing speaks more eloquently about the robustness of the current vinyl renaissance than the proliferation of the box set - as this best vinyl box set list shows.
Vinyl was tailor-made for the box set. You get all the music you love (plus, sometimes, quite a lot of related music you may not have ever heard before) on a format that sounds better than any other.
You get all the extras the music geeks crave - photos, posters, essays and what-have-you - and all in gratifyingly large format. You get a big, impressive-looking box that tells anyone who cares to look that you’re deadly serious about your vinyl habit.
But, of course, it’s just as important to be judicious in your choice of box set as you would be in any other transaction. There are no shortage of box sets out there that are nothing more than a reissued LP in an oversized sleeve.
That’s not the case with this shortlist. Here are 20 box sets crammed with thrilling music and absorbing extras - and each will bring no end of glamour and serious-mindedness to your record collection.
Don't forger to vote your best picks and if we have missed something, let us know below.
Best vinyl box sets
1. Billie Holiday: Classic Lady DayView now at Amazon
Here’s another box set that doesn’t need to do anything (beyond present the music in as high a quality as possible) in order to become a compelling purchase.
The Billie Holiday story may end with depressing predictability (she died at the age of 44, handcuffed to a hospital bed with police officers outside her door and less than a dollar in the bank), but the music she recorded bears comparison with the best of any art of the 20th century.
Here we’re treated to five LPs, from 1952’s Solitude to 1958’s All or Nothing At All, all remastered and pressed on heavyweight vinyl. If many of the titles are familiar (You Go to My Head, Stormy Weather, I’ve Got a Right to Sing the Blues, God Bless the Child), it’s because Billie Holiday took absolute possession of them.
2. David Bowie: A New Career in a New TownView now at Amazon
The Bowie nostalgia machine has been in overdrive ever since his passing in January 2016, so it’s important to be selective. But be assured you simply cannot go wrong with A New Career in a New Town.
It covers 1977 to 1982. That includes the peerless ‘Berlin trilogy’ of Low, “Heroes” and Lodger, as well as Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), two versions of the live Stage opus, plus rarities, B-sides, and the French and German versions of “Heroes” recorded as a tribute to Bowie’s sudden theory of ‘European Man’.
This is a properly lavish 13-disc collection, augmented by a hardback book of photos, historic press coverage and technical notes from long-time producer Tony Visconti. As essential a purchase as anything this indulgent ever could be.
3. The Velvet Underground: The Verve/MGM albumsView now at Amazon
How do you like your popular music? Rooted in La Monte Young-style sonic experimentation? With a Warhol-like fixation on relentless repetition? Obsessed with the wrong drugs, dangerous sex and all-around perviness? Pretty, melodic and hummable? All of the above? Cool. The Velvet Underground has your covered.
Here the band’s first three albums, plus Nico’s Chelsea Girl (on which all the band bar Mo collaborated) and the abandoned attempt at a fourth are collected in their original mono mixes, along with erudite essays and some poster art. Never before or since has ‘pop’ music been so literary, so avant-garde and so completely sleazy - which is why we all love it.
4. Kate Bush: Remastered in Vinyl Vol IIView now at Amazon
A much less exhaustive exercise than some of the other box sets on this list, this set simply offers Kate Bush’s fifth, sixth and seventh albums (Hounds of Love, The Sensual World and The Red Shoes) on heavyweight vinyl. They were remastered for the express purpose.
No book, no photos, no extracts from the Bush diaries… instead, painstakingly mastered (and exquisite-sounding) versions of three of Kate Bush’s best records. By extension, that means three of the best records released between 1985 and 1993, full stop.
If you don’t stop whatever it is you’re doing and just listen in reverential silence when Running Up That Hill or This Woman’s Work or You’re The One comes on, there may well be no hope for you.
5. Bob Marley and The Wailers: Exodus 40
If ever a record was worthy of the ‘significant anniversary’ treatment, it’s Bob Marley’s ninth and most commercially successful LP. Exodus, a collection of politically, religiously and sexually charged songs.
Exodus turned 40 in 2017 and this four-LPs-plus-two-7in-singles collection puts it nicely into context. Enjoy the sublime songwriting and musicianship of the original (remastered) LP, Ziggy Marley’s Exodus 40 - The Movement Continues (which features previously unheard songs and alternative vocal takes), Exodus Live (from London’s Rainbow Theatre, recorded the week of the album’s release) and the Punky Reggae Party LP that demonstrates how Marley’s enforced exile to the UK impacted on his material and outlook.
Time magazine called Exodus "the best album of the twentieth century" and on this evidence it’s hard to argue against the claim.
6. Public Image Limited: Metal BoxView now at Amazon
PiL’s second album came as three 12in 45rpm discs in an embossed metal film cannister - this anniversary reissue makes good on the album’s title by packing four 33rpm LPs into a metal box.
There are some remixes and BBC session versions of the songs here, as well as a Live at The Factory, Manchester performance that John Lydon spends a good length of time explaining to the audience is actually a rehearsal - which goes some way to explaining the rancorous and stop/start performances.
But it’s the original Metal Box that remains the major reason to own this box set. Many records have been commended as ‘unlike anything else you’ve heard’, but in this instance it’s an absolutely valid description. Post-punk just doesn’t get any more post- than this.
7. Radiohead: OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017View now at Amazon
A remastered album, a second LP of B-sides and unreleased tracks, a book of Thom Yorke’s notes and sketches for album artwork, and a cassette of ‘textures’ and ‘audio experiments’ make for a nicely rounded Radiohead experience. And unlike many Radiohead reissues, the band curated this 20th-anniversary knees-up themselves.
Perhaps as a consequence, it puts OK Computer (which has become as much a generational touchstone as Love’s Forever Changes or The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead were to previous generations) in proper context - that’s to say, it cements its position of one of pop music’s more significant achievements.
8. Ennio Morricone: Dollars, Dust & Pistoleros: The Westerns AnthologyView now at Amazon
Is there anything more satisfying than recreating the ‘wah-wah’ sound from the theme tune to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly? Perhaps not, but it’s only scratching the surface of composer Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtrack genius.
With that in mind, Dollars, Dust & Pistoleros is an exceptional collection of Morricone scores from classic movies including Once Upon a Time in the West, A Fistful of Dollars, and the aforementioned Clint Eastwood epic.
Cowboys and cowgirls, saddle up for a coloured 10 LP box set containing 10 iconic soundtracks that are as mesmerising without moving images as they are on the silver screen, featuring turns from spellbinding soloists, choirs, harmonicists and more.
9. Metallica: The Metallica Blacklisthttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Metallica-Blacklist-7LP-Limited-VINYL/dp/B097C82D7L/
Popbitch reckons Metallica shifted so much vinyl last year (900,000+ units) they’re buying a record-pressing plant. Sure, you can pick up opulently deluxe reissues of The Black Album if you wish, but for a unique twist on proceedings, there’s The Blacklist.
A crazy curious collection of covers from The Black Album, The Blacklist features 53 artists as diverse as Elton John, Miley Cyrus and Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, to Weezer, Royal Blood and Sam Fender, duly putting their own spin on the seminal release.
A further nice touch is that 100 per cent of profits from the seven LP box set goes to charity – split between Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation and those chosen by the 53 guest artists.
Reworkings vary from the sublime to the ridiculous, including an utterly outrageous version of ‘Wherever I May Roam’ by nutty London dance heads, Chase & Status. Have a subwoofer and stomach tablets handy.
10. Blondie: Against the Odds 1974-1982 Super Deluxe Collector’s EditionView now at Amazon
Originally announced in 2018, it took four years for Blondie’s complete studio records box set to become a reality, but the 10 LP collection is a considerable body of work containing 124 tracks and two books.
The former features all six studio albums, session outtakes, B-sides, and demos. The latter comprises a 144-page hardcover book with session commentary alongside a glorious 120-page volume of pic sleeves, 45 labels, flexi-discs, cassettes and 8-tracks.
Covering a 50-year career and 40 million records sold, Against the Odds features tracks remastered from original analogue tapes and cut at Abbey Road Studios which goes some way to explaining the love that’s gone into making this box set.
11. Blackadder’s Historical Record: 40th anniversaryView now at Amazon
An admittedly wildcard entry in the world of must-have vinyl, let alone vinyl box sets, this cunning plan of a collection contains all four series of one of the BBC sitcom on 12 gold-coloured discs (as opposed to gold coloured breasts, sadly not included).
A concoction of British comedic talent, featuring writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton supplying the ammunition for a star-studded cast including Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Rik Mayall and Miranda Richardson, Blackadder is a national institution.
In terms of extra currency, you’ll find framable print portraits of the cast, including one signed by Sir Tony Robinson, aka Baldrick (although what substance he had to hand at the time we dread to think), and a special edition colour-illustrated booklet.
12. Joni Mitchell: The Asylum AlbumsView now at Amazon
Joni Mitchell already had four acclaimed albums under her belt when she further hit her stride and moved to the newly formed Asylum Records in 1972. The Canadian icon joined an illustrious roster that included Bob Dylan, The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.
The Asylum Albums chronicles Mitchell’s next four albums as she embraced a jazz-inspired sound – nice. This includes essential tracks ‘You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio’, Help Me’, ‘Raised On Robbery’ and ‘In France they Kiss on Main Street’.
Mitchell, now 79, was “intimately involved” in producing the collection, lending her “personal touch” to the five LP box set with newly remastered versions of For The Roses, Court And Spark, Miles Of Aisles, and The Hissing Of Summer Lawns.
Limited to 20,000 copies, the cover art for the set features a previously unseen painting by Mitchell, and an essay by some chap called Neil Young.
13. Linkin Park: Meteora 20th anniversary Super Deluxe EditionView now at Amazon
In 2014, Malta’s national anthem was accidentally replaced by Linkin Park's Numb as football players lined up for the country’s friendly match with Slovakia. Laughter was promptly followed by applause because as everyone knows, that song goes hard.
The track is one of a number of bonafide huge hits from 2003’s hotly received Meteora, and forget tricky second album syndrome because the release is certified seven times platinum having sold around 16 million copies to date.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, and provide an emotional reminder of Chester Bennington’s frankly ludicrous vocal talent, this five LP, four CD, and three DVD deluxe edition is packed with previously unreleased live versions, demos and rarities.
14. Factory Records: Communications 1978-92View now at Amazon
The cultural impact Factory Records had on British pop for well over a decade is well documented, but unless you were an avid collector of the label’s original releases only now has a consummate collection been made available on wax.
Originally released as a CD box set in 2009, it’s taken 10 to come to vinyl, but the 63 tracks across eight remastered records act as a faithful encyclopedia of cuts from New Order, Joy Division, The Durutti Column, Happy Mondays, and many others.
Communications is dedicated to the late, great Tony Wilson and features sleeve notes from former NME journalist Paul Morley who wrote for the title when Factory was founded. Embrace the rabbit hole you’re about to go down.
15. Brian Eno: Music for InstallationsView now at Amazon
Even though none of this music has ever been released on vinyl before, you already kind of suspect what you’re getting here, don’t you? These nine LPs collect music Eno composed as part of the audio/visual installations he’s been responsible for - the oldest of these pieces dates from 1986.
Those installations were in places as far-flung as Venice, Beijing, Sydney and St Petersburg, and Eno’s particular brand of evocative-yet-soporific aural invention has been rapturously received over the years.
As well as nine discs and some exquisite packaging, the box includes a book of exhibition photos and a new essay by Eno. Never has the term ‘audio wallpaper’ been meant as such an unequivocal compliment.
16. The Notorious BIG: Life After Death 25th Anniversary Super Deluxe EditionView now at Amazon
From back in the days of gratuitously long rap albums with seemingly endless track listings, the naughty version of Life After Death lasted two hours across 25 tracks and two discs. Here you get eight LPs lasting longer still, but it’s virtually all killer.
Savour remasters, remixes, instrumentals, plus all the original explicit content with bonafide 12-inch bangers from ‘Hypnotize’ to ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’ alongside a commemorative booklet featuring reflections from the original production team.
Diamond-certified, Life After Death was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 40th Annual Grammy Awards almost a year after Biggie’s death. Who did he lose to? Try No Way Out by Puff Daddy… featuring none other than tribute track ‘I’ll Be Missing You’.
17. Guns n’Roses: Use Your IllusionView now at Amazon
Contrary to popular belief, Guns n’Roses have *checks notes* six studio albums and the third and fourth consisted of two-parter Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion 2 featuring the hits ‘November Rain’ and their cover of 'Live And Let Die'.
Deciding to use their initiative, both releases are now available together in an eye-wateringly expensive 12 LP offering, giving you ample opportunity to gorge on the back catalogue in this, the year of the headline Glastonbury appearance.The bang for your buck is fairly considerable, mind, with 97 tracks – 63 of which are previously unreleased, including “UYI-era” live recordings from New York and Las Vegas, along with the full concerts on Blu-Ray with Dolby Atmos audio.
18. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: B-sides & Rarities: Parts I & IIView now at Amazon
If delving deeper into the already mysterious world of enigmatic Aussie Nick Cave sparks your curiosity, a box set of B-sides and rarities with the Bad Seeds will almost certainly satisfy it.
Spanning a 30-plus year career, this two-part collection comprises 83 tracks across seven LPs featuring exclusive photographs and sleeve notes written by The Guardian’s Sean O’Hagan – co-author with Cave on the bestselling book Faith, Hope and Carnage.
As you might expect with a true prince of darkness, the packaging is almost exclusively monochrome, save for some neat foiling effects which presumably act as a metaphor for the mind being a reflection of your soul or something.
19. Liz Phair: Girly-Sound to GuyvilleView now at Amazon
26 years have passed since Liz Phair’s debut album, Exile in Guyville, was released. Its critical reputation and influence just continue to grow.
To celebrate its quarter-century, Matador records treated us to this seven-disc round-up of all the material that took Phair from bedroom recording artiste to celebrated, divisive and unrepentant Figure of Importance. Much of the vinyl is devoted to 1991’s Girly-Sound cassettes (Yo Yo Buddy Yup Yup Word to Ya Mutha, Girls! Girls! Girls! and Sooty), while Exile in Guyville is given a very light-touch remaster.
There’s also a big old book of photos, essays, think-pieces and artwork. Every home should have one.
20. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever To TellView now at Yeah Yeah Yeahs Shop
As one of the 21st century’s most acclaimed debut albums, Fever To Tell is more deserving than most of the box-set treatment and this is how to do it.
A heavyweight LP of the original album, an equally weighty second disc of demos, B-sides and rarities, a big book of photos, posters, an iron-patch for your denim jacket, and a champagne cork-style USB stick with 90 minutes of video content as well as a load more music.
Of course, there has to be a hook to hang it from - so it’s just as well Fever To Tell sounds as fresh and invigorating now as it did in 2003.
- These are the best vinyl records you must own.
Additional writing: Simon Lucas