A&M 50: The Anniversary Collection is a modest 60-track anthology of Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss' diverse label. Chronologically speaking, it begins with Alpert and his Tijuana Brass' "The Lonely Bull [El Solo Toro]" and concludes with Barry White's "Practice What You Preach," so it could have been released in late 1994, a few years prior to the Polygram-Universal merger that gutted the label. This isn't billed as a definitive compilation. The liner notes refer to it as a "sampling," and it's formatted as such, with each disc of the CD version given a loose theme and some peculiar sequencing, like disc two, aka A Mission to Rock, which features Joe Jackson's not-very-rocking "Steppin' Out" (1982) between Humble Pie's "30 Days in the Hole" (1972) and the Flying Burrito Brothers' "Hot Burrito #1" (1969). More selections come from the '70s than the '60s and '80s combined, while the '90s get something of a short shrift, with neither the Gin Blossoms nor Blues Traveler represented. There's no obvious label aesthetic that runs through all of the music, but the A&M roster did have a singular assortment of critical and popular favorites, from Captain Beefheart (not included) to Carpenters, and from Milton Nascimento to Styx. Mainstream rap excepted, A&M covered every development and radio format in popular music -- including bossa nova, AM pop, folk-rock, singer/songwriter, soft rock, quiet storm, stadium rock, smooth jazz, new wave, and grunge -- with significant contributors. There is no way a generalist A&M overview could have been assembled without appealing to anyone other than a voracious pop music nerd. This certainly does the trick (and retailed for a price significantly lower than a full-price two-disc set). Maybe a second volume will have room for Beefheart, Melvin Van Peebles, the Tubes, the Blue Nile, Double, Intelligent Hoodlum, Swervedriver, and Vesta.