Anybody who's ever followed the path of their

Anybody who's ever followed the path of their favorite hip-hop breakbeat has more often than not led themselves to the wellspring of funk and soul records released by the Warner Bros. family tree of c

Anybody who's ever followed the path of their favorite hip-hop breakbeat has more often than not led themselves to the wellspring of funk and soul records released by the Warner Bros. family tree of classic labels between the years 1967 and 1977. And chances are if you did go hunting for some of these rare grooves on Atco, Atlantic, Roulette, Curtom, Warners proper and Reprise, you paid through your nose for albums and 45s so hard to come by they are priced somewhere in the high hundreds either at your local record fair or on eBay.

But for those with neither the time nor the disposable income to dig through the crates for that impossibly hard-to-find copy of Young-Holt Unlimited's 1971 Cotillion classic "Born Again," the nugget prospectors over at Rhino Records have blessed the public with "What It Is!", a four-CD collection of the tastiest cuts of the Vietnam era. 91 tracks in all, this attractively designed box ranges from the funkiest obscurities by the most super of superstars (the Meters, Curtis Mayfield, Bootsy Collins and the late Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic, Little Richard, Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett) to gritty soul workouts from virtual unknowns like the Unemployed, United 8, Seatrain, Rasputin's Stash and Faze-O.

Supplementing the rhythms are informative liner notes written by music journalists Oliver Wang, Gil Kaufman and Adam Gladstone along with the box's associate producer Rick Conrad, not to mention incredibly cool testimonials from the likes of Hank Shocklee, Fred Wesley, Howard Tate, DJ Pooh and George Porter Jr. among others. "What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves" is a must-own for any Wax Poetics subscriber out there, but it will never make you as cool as those writers think they are for turning you onto this stuff in the first place. -- Ron Hart