Like other underappreciated bands from the same era (the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, etc.), the multi-member funk band Cymande was virtually ignored during their short career, which spawned a trio of albums during the early '70s. But 20 years after their breakup, the group gained a large cult following, after countless modern-day rap acts began sampling bits from Cymande's tunes. The Newhouse label assembled a 13-track best-of set in 2000, The Soul of Rasta, collecting the finest tracks from their 3 original releases. Although comparable at times to such bands as Santana and War (especially evident in the group's use of percussion), Cymande's music is a must-hear, as it's a fantastic blend of exotic and funky ensemble playing (the group included eight members), soulful vocals, and uplifting lyrics, the latter of which sometimes reflected their Rastafarian beliefs. All 13 tracks are standouts, but tops would have to be "Bra" (which was a popular radio hit in New York City when originally released), the groovy "The Message," the long and winding 11-minute track "Dove," and arguably the finest song on the collection, the soothing "Willy's Headache." The Soul of Rasta is an essential purchase for admirers of '70s funk and soul, but chances are it will lead to the purchase of the hard-to-find 1999 British import double-disc set The Message, which collects all three of the albums along with three previously unissued tracks.