TRUTH IN PACKAGING DEPT.: When a star leaves one record company to join another, it's almost inevitable that the former label will release a batch of the artist's old material that has been lying around in the vaults--especially if the artist's career is on the rebound. (Oddly enough, it's often the same material that the label didn't think was strong enough to release when the artist was still with the record company.)

However, CBS Records has just released a "new" Patti LaBelle album that is actually a cobwebby assortment of tracks that Labelle says are from 18 months to 4 years old. It's no coincidence that the album was released just a few months after LaBelle had her biggest hit in years, "New Attitude," from the "Beverly Hills Cop" sound track on MCA Records. Most labels find room to warn the consumer, at least in small print, that a record contains old material. But CBS (though it found room to list all of the musicians who play on each song) couldn't find space to offer a disclaimer mentioning the songs' not-so-recent vintage.

"It's good music now and it was good music then, but it isn't what I sound like in 1985 by any means," said LaBelle, who's in the midst of recording a new album for MCA. "I think it's very misleading to the public that it doesn't say anywhere on the record that these songs are not current but from another era."

CBS refused to comment.

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