And the next one please.  Steve Jenner is Managing Director and weekday drivetime presenter on Ashbourne Radio in Derbyshire (one of a handful of genuinely independent commercial stations left in the UK).  Steve has been a broadcaster for over 20 years and a DJ for much (much) longer and he knows a good tune when he hears one.  He’s also a bloody good bloke who doesn’t mind getting his round in.  As a man who knows about Phonographic Performance Licensing, he’s helpfully added the label information for each of the albums; and he’s ranked them 1 to 5 which none of the rest of us dared to do.

The Beach Boys – “That’s Why God Made the Radio” (Capitol)Product Details

This is either one of two things. A cynical last go at topping up the retirement fund by a bunch of coffin dodgers who ought to know better, or a hauntingly nostalgic and melancholy – soaked slice of harmony magic. Ok I’ve put it as my number 1 of the year so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if the title track doesn’t have you referencing back to summers long past and cars long gone to the breaker’s yard, you have no right to have been given ears. From the achingly beautiful opening sequence to the final track’s ode to transience, it is enchanting.

Paul Carrack – “Good Feeling” (Carrack UK)Product Details

This is either one of two things. A perfunctory and never less than professional run through of a handful of songs of varying quality, or a varied, extremely well performed set of well written and well chosen songs performed with love for the material, respect for the intended audience and a sure – footedness and confidence which only comes from year upon year of recording and touring with the very best. Ok I’ve put it as my number 2 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but from the second the searingly optimistic title track folds into the live tour de force “Marmalade Moon” to the point when it finally puts you down, you’re travelling alongside one of the best popular musicians this country has produced. And that’s ever. It’s an album that smiles at you – and means it.

Sandi Thom – “Flesh and Blood” (Guardian Angels)Product Details

This is either one of two things. An Americanised watering -- down of a once feisty and original Scottish songwriter and performer and her work, or a compelling and never less than sumptuous piece of work which has moments of incredible tenderness and beauty. Ok, I’ve put it as my number 3 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if you come across a more moving and despairing rendition of a song than the towering “Big Ones Get Away” (Featuring Buffy Saint – Marie on spooky vocal enhancement) or the swaggering Rickenbacker of “Sun Comes Crashing Down”, buy me a copy of whatever it is and I’ll call you a Big Fat Fibber. Gorgeous.

Deacon Blue – “The Hipsters”Product Details

This is either one of two things. A gauche attempt by a bunch of 90’s burnt – outs to recapture the glory days and trying hard but not quite making which is worse than not bothering at all or an out – of – nowhere, died – in – the – wool, very pleasant surprise. Ok, I’ve put it as my number 4 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if there was a better summer FM choon than the title track this year outside of the Beach Boys album I’m afraid it passed me right on by. “The Outsiders” is pretty damn tidy too. As is the first track….oh, just stick the whole thing on. It’s real Deacon Blue. Says so on the tin.

Seal – “Soul 2”Product Details

This is either one of two things. Yet another of those awful rob – a -- genre albums artists who are struggling a bit due to reasons personal or professional insist on releasing (or their record company shamefully leans on them to do so) when they run out of ideas or it is a masterclass in how it should be done by an expert practitioner at the top of his game. Ok, I’ve put it as my number 5 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if you hear a better version of “Wishing On A Star” – and I include Rose Royce in this – or the criminally underplayed  Smokey and the Miracles “Ooh Baby Baby”, (which isn’t quite as good as the original but hey, we’re tickling the toes of the angels here) I’ll refuse to buy you a copy of the new Rod Stewart Christmas Album. You have to be an exceptional talent to carry this sort of thing off. Well done, Mr Seal.

Many thanks to Steve for that great selection.  There’s another selection coming tomorrow; I wonder who that could be?

We’ve heard and read a lot this year about the death of the album as a format.  Well, we’re having none of that at Riot Towers; as far as we’re concerned the album is still alive and kicking (and none of your download nonsense either).  The site contributors have all put together their favourite fives of the year and we’re sharing our choices with you as a little festive thank you.  As the most senior (oldest) contributor, I get to open the batting for the Riot Squad 2012 favourites.  I can’t even attempt to rank these so here we go, in alphabetical order by title.  You can find reviews of all of these albums on the site.

“Devil in Me” – Natalie DuncanProduct Details

This is one of two debut albums in my Top Five for 2012.  Natalie’s a superb singer and a great piano player but the songs are something else.  Some are observational such as the superb “Old Rock” while others appear to be very personal (“Uncomfortable Silence”); what they have in common is that they are all superbly-crafted songs which work equally well when orchestrated on the album or played live with a smaller drums/bass/guitar/piano set-up.  You should really make the effort to see Natalie Duncan live in 2013.

“Good Feeling” – Paul CarrackProduct Details

Paul Carrack has been one of my favourite singers for longer than I care to admit so I approached this with a bit of caution; there’s always a chance that an album like this can disappoint.  I didn’t need to worry because this blend of originals, songwriting collaborations and covers is absolutely superb.  His voice is as stunning as it was 40 years ago and he’s great keyboard player and good guitar player; it’s sickening really.  It’s worth buying for the voice alone, but there’s so much more to admire here, particularly the Nick Lowe song “From Now On” and Springsteen’s “If I Fall Behind”.

“Lilygun” – LilygunProduct Details

Another debut album, this time from a band that defies classification.  I still don’t know whether this is indie, goth, rock, emo or any combination of the above.  What I do know is that it’s melodic, inventive, dynamic and original and the band is great live as well.  My first contact with Lilygun was a review of the single “Moonlight” and I’ve seen quite a lot of the band since.  This is an album where you don’t shuffle the tracks; it’s programmed to tell a story from the first to the final track and that’s how you need to listen to it.  Also featured on the album is the live favourite “Scum”.

“The Hipsters” – Deacon BlueProduct Details

This seemed to come out of nowhere in the autumn of this year.  All of the band members have been doing their own thing for years and the only motivation for this project was love of the music.  Ricky Ross provided the strongest set of songs he’s written in years and they were recorded live in the studio; the result was an album which was fresh, immediate and memorable.  I know you can’t rewrite history, but I wish this had been the second Deacon Blue album rather than the slightly bombastic “When the World Knows your Name” (and I’m not saying that’s a bad album).  The songs here are much more personal; “Is There No Way Back to You?” and “Laura From Memory” are written in the first person and the ironically- titled “The Hipsters” (the best summer song of 2012) is neatly counterbalanced with the more accurate description of “The Outsiders”.  However you look at it, it’s a great album.

“Words and Music” – Saint EtienneProduct Details

This was the soundtrack to my summer this year.  I’ve always loved Saint Etienne but I hadn’t really expected to hear any significant new material from them; This was quite a surprise.  It’s the perfect package; great songs which are nostalgic but never mawkish with enough references to satisfy any pop trainspotter and the best artwork of the year.  From the scene-setting opener “Over the Border”, the album explores the soul of the music obsessive through the great settings of Wiggs and Stanley and Sarah Cracknell’s perfect voice.  As with every other album on this list, there isn’t any filler here but, if I have to pick a few standout tracks then “Tonight”, “Answer Song” and “Popular” should do nicely.

Ok I said Top 5, but I also need to give a mention to Dean Owens who released 2 great albums this year (“New York Hummingbird” and Cash Back”) which were both reviewed as 4-star albums.  Nobody else managed that particular feat.  So, does anyone still want to tell me that the album’s a dead format?

Product DetailsIf there’s one thing that I really admire in musicians it’s the ability to survive; to come through the periods when you’re terminally unhip and still want to play, write and sing.  It needs incredible self-belief and, sometimes, sheer bloody-mindedness (before we even talk about talent) to keep going in an increasingly tough business.  If you’ve been writing, performing and recording for over 40 years and you’ve had a hand in songs as diverse as Ace’s “How Long”, Squeeze’s “Tempted” and Mike & The Mechanics’ “The Living Years” and The Eagles have covered one of your songs, then you deserve at least a fair hearing.  So, Paul Carrack’s back again in 2012 and he’s sounding better than ever.

There are no bad, or even indifferent, tracks on “Good Feeling”; they’re all good and there’s stacks of variety in the in the styles and arrangements of the songs, but one thing makes this collection essential listening.  Paul Carrack still has an astonishingly soulful voice; my good mate Steve J reckons he could sing the telephone directory and you would pay to listen and I don’t think he’s far off the mark.  On top of that, he’s a great Hammond player and there aren’t many better instruments to accompany a great soul voice.  The songs on this collection are a combination of Paul Carrack originals, collaborations with other writers and covers of songs by writers as diverse as Nick Lowe, Bruce Springsteen and Gerry Goffin and Carole King.  It’s a great tribute to Carrack’s songwriting that his own songs are as strong as the covers although the best song on the album (my opinion here) isn’t one of his own, although it’s a great pick from a relatively unknown band.

The album opens with the Sam Cooke-tinged “Good Feelin’ About It” which, unsurprisingly, is a feelgood song and it’s followed by the Chris Difford collaboration “Marmalade Moon” bursting in with a horn section which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Southside Johnny album.  The album flits effortlessly between musical styles, from the laid-back funk of “Nothing Without You” to the early Motown feel (including Stevie Wonder style harmonica) of “Time to Move On” to the pure 60s pop of the Goffin/King cover “When My Little Girl is Smiling”, which is very reminiscent of his 80s cover of the Jackie de Shannon classic “When You Walk in the Room”.  The Nick Lowe and Bruce Springsteen covers (“From Now On” and “If I Should Fall Behind” respectively) both evoke the original performers while bearing the stamp of Paul Carrack’s incredible voice.

In my (almost) humble opinion, there are 2 songs which define the album and push it out of the Paul Carrack comfort zone.  “Make It Right” is a cover of a lovely Tinlin brothers song with lots of minor chords and a slightly discordant riff, while “Long Ago” (a collaboration with Swedish songwriter Chris Antblad) could be a Brian Kennedy boy band single, but with grown-up lyrics.  Any album of songs by Paul Carrack is going to be worth listening to, but these 2 songs take “Good Feeling” in a slightly different direction, introducing a hint of atonality on the one hand and a pop sensibility on the other.

If you’ve never heard of Paul Carrack, this is a cracking introduction and if you’re already converted, “Good Feeling” might just give you a few surprises.  Great album.

Release date 24/09/12.