There's never a bad time to fall in love with Stax, the soul label that, from a converted Memphis movie theater, delivered some of the deepest, funkiest soul the world has heard. The two-disc Stax: 50th Anniversary Celebration offers a compact summary of the label's output, from the Otis Redding / Sam & Dave salad days through its mid-'70s burnout. It's being released to herald the label's re-launch, both for classic albums and new music, including forthcoming discs from Angie Stone and label stalwart Isaac Hayes… A

Chicago's Twinight had considerably fewer hits than Stax, to put it mildly. Kept afloat by singer-producer Syl Johnson and the fact that its owners were making plenty of money elsewhere, it chugged out almost-ran after almost-ran, most heard only on the radio in the dead of the Chicago night. But there are gems aplenty on Twinight's Lunar Rotation, the latest entry in Numero Group's "Eccentric Soul" series. A crack session band called Pieces Of Peace, refugees from Chicago's Brunswick label, provides most of the soulful funk, even giving The Temptations' psychedelic soul phase a run for its money on the Dynamic Tints track "Rosemarie." And there's plenty more where that came from… B+

Another label with a distinctive sound, or at least a distinctive attitude, Stiff Records helped midwife the careers of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, The Damned, and The Pogues. Its approach was punk, but it came to specialize in bare-knuckled pub rock of the highest order. Many of its albums have been out of print for years, but a series of reissues is changing that as of 2007. Wreckless Eric's Big Smash and Dirty Looks' Dirty Looks/Turn It Up don't really change those groups' reputations as one-hit wonders. Nor, in spite of the wonderful "They Don't Know," does You Broke My Heart In 17 Places by Tracey Ullman. (Yes, that Tracey Ullman.) All: B-


But attention should be paid to Rachel Sweet's Fool Around, the debut album from the should've-been-huge country/new-wave singer, and Any Trouble's Where Are All The Nice Girls? Sharp songwriting and stirring performances should have let Any Trouble shed its reputation as an Elvis Costello wannabe. Both: B+…

Much love has gone into Forever Changing: The Golden Age Of Elektra Records, 1963-1973 (Rhino), which sums up Jac Holzman's years heading the label that brought us The Doors, The Stooges, Carly Simon, Love, and a whole lot of familiar psychedelic folk rock and would-be Bob Dylans. (Plainsong! Earth Opera!) It's a fascinating, sometimes-enlightening, often-irritating journey through the past. A-