Hoping everyone enjoyed our first portion of the December Advent Calendar and discovered some great tunes for the holidays!
To ring out the New Year, we’re happy to complete our list and provide you with the rest of the greatest releases from the 12th to the 31st of December.
The Clash – Sandinista! (1980)
1980 could have been a year where the Clash could have let their monumental London Calling (1979) record marinate and usher in the 1980’s but they knew momentum when spotted; The band decided to get back into the studio in early 1980 to churn out new songs that would ultimately result in a 6-side 36 track album that cemented their status as one of the world’s greatest punk bands. They could have stuck with the same formula but over 36 tracks their fangs showed a different light on the band with their usual punk energy this time with dub and world influences. Joe Strummer sounds energetic and focused interweaving his signature vocals through experimental sounds and previously untouched landscapes from the band. For all that London Calling did for the world of music, Sandinista! Ushered us into the 1980’s in a more monumental way and prepared The Clash for Combat Rock.
Top Song(s): Somebody Got Murdered; Lightning Strikes (Not Once but Twice); Up in Heaven (Not Only Here); The Call Up.
Badfinger – Straight Up (1971)
This Welsh band were coming off their most successful stretch in the late 1960’s and needed a record that would finally show their true talents as a go to power-rock-pop ballad outfit. Straight Up would be that record with catchy piano lines, Beatle-esque melodies (thanks to ex-Beatle George Harrison’s input) and striking lead guitar. You might recognize the song Baby Blue of Breaking Bad (2013) fame, but this offers so many underrated gems from that was all the rage in 1971. Badfinger and fans of the band would recognize this album as their greatest achievement and unfortunately would be the highest point before all the legal, financial and marital problems unfolded in 1973. Lead singer Peter Ham would unfortunately take his own life in 1975 amid these issues and would end Badfinger. The album plays like a band attempting to take off, only to stop at the edge of the runway.
Top Song(s): Baby Blue; Day After Day.
The Clash – London Calling (1979)
The record that showed the music world that Punk music was so much more than frenetic drums and 3 chord jams. The Clash struck a delicate balance between the attitude and melodic songwriting that no Punk band had done before. They gave us a 19 song album full of songs that will make us stomp our feet and sing along all while running through a brick wall.
Top Song(s): London Calling; Train in Vain (Stand by Me); The Clampdown.
Parliament – Mothership Connection (1975)
When George Clinton started his career as a staff writer for Motown Records in the mid 1960’s, musical aspirations were always the forefront of his writing. He wrote and recorded songs that fit in a Motown sound that was already saturated with so many artists at the time that stopped Clinton from any sort of success. He decided to throw caution to the wind with the formation of his band Funkadelic where contemporaries could only marvel at the funky wackiness of the band with elaborate stage costumes, set pieces and 12-man band jams. While Funkadelic was in the middle of it’s run in the early 1970’s, Clinton decided that he needed more space to feel free. He needed to turn down the wackiness and up the commercial appeal which is where Parliament came to fruition and P-Funk was created. Parliament was sister to Funkadelic; still funky in nature, but slick in production and songwriting which captured the early disco era within groovy bass-lines and sample worthy instrumentation. Every song twists, turns, jams and almost feels like a precursor to the late 70’s disco era, all without sacrificing musical integrity. Not only did it influence disco groups, it also inspired a number of musicians born in the 60’s and 70’s that ended up making their own mark in the music world in the 1990’s.
Top Song(s): Press Play from the first track and groove man, groove.
Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)
Has any album meant more to West Coast Hip-Hop than The Chronic? No. Some might argue that it is the greatest hip-hop album of all time. If P-Funk was created in 1975, then G-Funk was created in 1992. The influence was palpable, the integrity was intact and the vision was crystal clear. Incredible that Dr.Dre produced, recorded, mixed and mastered this album all without a label and living in his mother’s basement in Compton, California. Every beat is a testament to the fact that hip-hop was going to explore new heights in the 1990’s where it wasn’t enough to be good with words, the music had to be just as incredible. Helped by lifelong friend Snoop Dogg, this album plays like a cinematic experience of California in the 1990’s where the remnants of the LA Riots were still in the air and the West Coast Music reigned supreme.
Top Song(s): Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’); Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang; Let Me Ride.
Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear (1978)
Already crowned the “Prince of Soul” releasing monumental albums such as What’s Going On (1971) and Let’s Get It On (1973), anything released after from Marvin Gaye could have just been updated editions to a best selling book. However in 1978, Gaye was mismanaged and out of money from his recent divorce. He went into the studio for a “quickie” record with “nothing too heavy or even too good” due to the fact that his ex would obtain half of the royalties of the record. Here, My Dear plays like a record of a broken hearted-man with his back up against the ropes in hope to find something from inside his soul. He recaptured his magic from early in the decade and now this record stands the test of time with his classics. The melodies are perfect, the instrumentation soft & subtle all layered under lyrics that pull no punches for his ex. Once again Marvin Gaye is crowned, Prince of Soul.
Top Song(s): When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You; Is That Enough; Time To Get It Together.
David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1971)
When David Bowie started out as some skinny kid from central London, no one had envisioned the grandiose spectacle his life would eventually become. Starting out with his self-titled debut album in 1967 which ironically fit the mold of the music scene at the time, but by 1971 Bowie was on a trajectory to break all molds when it came to music and stage persona. Hunky Dory was at the beginning of the trajectory, with an album cover of himself in long blonde hair and a polka dot dress, there was no stopping what he would become. This album fits seamlessly as a transition into the future of music and sound and personality as they all began to blur the lines of what was real and what was imaginary. The music was beginning to sound like nothing else out there, and kept flying into the great unknown.
Top Song(s): Changes; Oh! You Pretty Things; Life On Mars.
Nas – Stillmatic (2001)
By the turn of the century Nas was at an uncommon low point. His career had started with Illmatic in 1994 when he was 21 and was a certified classic right off release. By 1999 and a couple albums that did not meet expectations, fans and critics were clamouring for something that harkened back to the Illmatic days where Nas effortlessly wove his lyrical wizardry over slick NYC boom bap which was his claim to fame. Nas moved away from the mafioso rap of previous releases and released Stillmatic as another steak in the claim that he was the king of NYC hip hop. Beats bad to being as broody and boom-bappy as ever, Nas easily out paces all other hip hop artists and his lyrical prowess was back on display. Every track is a jam similar to his first release, and once again he could claim the throne of NYC and ignite a feud with another fellow NYC rapper for many years to come.
Top Song(s): Ether; Got Ur Self A Gun; One Mic; 2nd Childhood.
Lupe Fiasco – The Cool (2007)
The Cool has a fascinating backstory as a concept album. It originated from his debut album Food and Liquor the year prior and acts as the fleshed out version of a young boy’s story. The album tells a story of the young boy from Food and Liquor who grew up without a father, and the people that step in to raise him are the Streets and the Game, with The Streets playing his female love interest and The Game his father. The music itself is a continuation from his first record filled with soulful samples over boom bap drums and slick production techniques. Fiasco is at the top of his game for the 2nd straight release and at this point he is getting props from the likes of Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and John Legend. The concept album doesn’t warrant any skips as the story weaves back and forth through the mind and life of a young boy trying to obtain “The Cool”.
Top Song(s): The Cool; Superstar; Paris, Tokyo; Gold Watch; Gotta Eat; Dumb It Down.
AC/DC – Back In Black (1980)
When lead singer Bon Scott passed away from acute alcohol poisoning in February 1980, the band wrought with grief, considering this the end of the line for the band. After years of commercial and critical success, any band could ride off into the sunset and be proud of their accomplishments. Do you end on a high note and remain Rock & Roll lore or carry on and continue to build on previous success to become megastars. The Aussie rockers decided to rock-on and decided to call one of their contacts that late singer Bon Scott had actually brought up in previous years as a man that could sing rock and roll like Little Richard. The legend goes that when Brian Johnson was presumably late for his audition, he was downstairs from the rehearsal spot playing pool and boozing with the roadies. Effortless did Johnson fit in the band with howling vocals that were reminiscent of Scott’s and the band did not miss a beat. Backed by Angus Young’s incredible and catchy lead guitar, the band hit even higher heights and have remained the go-to rockers that have been loved for decades. Some of the songs on this record are their most commercial and memorable and remain a staple of the rock and roll community to this day. The legend in Bon Scott lives on in Brian Johnson as you can’t forget where you came from to know where you’re going. The band was BACK IN BLACK!
Top Song(s): Hells Bells; Shoot To Thrill; Back in Black; You Shook Me All Night Long.
The Weeknd – Echoes of Silence (2011)
By the fall of 2011, a shadowy R&B figure by the name of The Weeknd was still an unknown singer from Toronto. No one even knew his real name and remained anonymous to the world that knows his name now. Abel Tesfaye was forming “The Weeknd” from a very early age and Echoes of Silence was the final of a trilogy of albums that would finally be unleashed into the world and catapult him into the artist we know now. Echoes of Silences (also disc 3 from TRILOGY) plays like a mixtape showcasing an artist waiting to explode into superstardom. The songs still capture the sombre and broody mood from his first two mixtapes but this one feels different. There is a sense of anxious release hanging over the project. Still were the tales of drug-fueled partying with women he did not know, but the production became sleeker and sensed that if he could just continue this trajectory into commercial territory there’d be no stopping The Weeknd. Now, there is no bigger artist in the world than The Weeknd. Go back and listen to this trilogy of mixtapes and some could argue that it is still his best work.
Top Song(s): XO/The Host; Initiation; Same Old Song; Next.
DMX – Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998)
By the late 1990’s the hip hop world was yearning for someone to come in, unapologetically and break the mold from the previous 3-4 years of mafioso rap. DMX was that artist. Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood was a stellar debut album and the first of two records released in 1998 and not only broke the mold but smashed through it. Gritty street-themed lyrics and a dog-like flow and delivery, DMX previewed to the hip-hop world what the next 5 years of the DOG would be. This started his run of 5 consecutive Billboard Top 200 albums and ushered the new year into a new more real and raw version of hip-hop that had not been seen since the early 90’s. Backed by the Ruff Ryders, X was a star in the making and was ready to bite whoever came into his path.
Top Song(s): We Don’t Give a Fuck; It’s All Good; Slippin’.
America – America (1971)
Almost relegated to “that band” that everyone knows but no ones heard about, America’s self titled debut album is a perfect mix of acoustic-rock ballads with thoughtful and provoking songwriting interwoven with beautiful melodies reminiscent of early Beatles records. It could be for the fact that George Martin the famed Beatles producer did partake in the making of the album, there seems to be a perfect delicate balance to the record that was very hard to achieve in the early 1970’s with the growing popularity of hard rock and glam rock. Take a listen to A Horse With No Name, a song easily recognizable to the average listener; and let it take you to places where you can feel your body drift away…
Top Song(s): Riverside; A Horse With No Name; Never Found The Time.
Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding (1967)
Some might have called it a comeback or return to form, or maybe, just maybe Bob Dylan never forgot his roots, he just needed some room to grow. From folk hero to when he went “electric” at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25th 1965 he was being called a “Judas” and booed off the stage. As he donned black boots, black jeans and a black leather jacket, he stayed the course as the crowd grew raucous with anger and began to boo him off the stage he knew what he had deliberately done in order to advance himself musically. By the time 1967 had come, he had released two of his most critically acclaimed albums in Highway 61 Revisited (1965) and Blonde On Blonde (1966) and was finally starting to receive the support from the folk community for his recent success with electric guitar. He decided to pivot once again back to his acoustic roots and deliver another highly critical release in John Wesley Harding. A mix of acoustic ballads partly dedicated to the Texas outlaw John Wesley Hardin, Dylan himself was considered an outlaw and outlier to the mainstream rock and roll that was dominating the pop charts. Dylan had not missed a step and some might have called it a return to acoustic form. A truly fantastic record from a revolutionary musician.
Top Song(s): All Along The Watchtower; I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine; Drifter’s Escape
Jay-Z – Vol.3… Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)
Jigga Man, history in the making… The Final chapter to the Life and Times of Shawn Corey Carter series.
Next up, The Blueprint.
Top Song(s): So Ghetto; Snoopy Track; Big Pimpin’; Hova Song(s); Anything
John Legend – Get Lifted (2004)
Hard to believe that John Legend’s debut album is already 16 years old. It sounds as fresh as ever with beautiful piano lines and dazzling vocals over that old-school Kanye West vibe that we’ve been begging for the last half decade. Having played piano on Lauryn Hill’s Everything Is Everything in 1998, he was Kanye’s Ace under the sleeve for many years prior to the 2004 release. Still regarded as his best which includes “Ordinary People”, the smash drumless piano number that catapulted Legend to international heights, the record is a tour-de-force with features from Snoop Dogg and Kanye West who also executive produced the album. It was a sign of things to come from the young up and coming musician to where he is now as the impromptu go-to for some of hip-hop’s most memorable hooks and features. Get High, Get Lifted.
Top Song(s): Used To Love You; Number One; Ordinary People; So High.
We hope you all enjoyed our first annual December Music Advent Calendar!
To check our our updated December Music Advent Calendar Playlist – CLICK HERE
To see our previous post for days 01 to 11 December – CLICK HERE