When I purchase an album, it’s exceedingly rare that I will later purchase one that will exceed the first one I got. Sure, it’s somewhat attributable to nostalgia and “loyalty”, but it’s also partially “natural selection”, in that if it’s not that great an album to begin with I’m not really likely to buy another one from that artist!
In fact, I can only think of two instances where an album I bought later definitely exceeds the quality of an earlier-purchased album:
Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys is much better than Licensed to Ill.
Welcome Interstate Managers and Utopia Parkway are both better than Fountains of Wayne’s eponymous release even though that has their breakaway best song IMO, Leave the Biker.
There are also three near-examples, but all three consist of a Later album I got from a band first, then bought their earlier album and now play the album they recorded first (but I bought later) more than the album I bought first. In all three instances it’s because I played the first album I bought so much that I sort of burnt out on it, and revel in the energy the “younger” album brings. In none of these cases I have yet to catch up to the album in total playing time (since all three of these were on constant rotation when I first got them.) I also still have a fondness in my heart for the quality of the first album I got from these groups even if I seldom get the urge to break them out again.
I listen to these early albums more than their later albums, even though I purchased the early albums after the later albums:
The Second Stage Turbine Blade by Coheed and Cambria versus their later offering of In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3.
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge by My Chemical Romance versus their later Black Parade.
Led Zeppelin 1 versus “4”.