October 03, 2006

Album Review

The 2006 release of The Essential Gloria Estefan satisfied a long unmet need for a career-spanning English-language retrospective, one that includes the singer's popular hits with Miami Sound Machine in the mid-'80s as well as her subsequent solo recordings. For years, Estefan fans had few best-of choices to choose from -- the Spanish-language Exitos de Gloria Estefan (1990), the two-volume Greatest Hits series (1992, 2001), and the latter-day Amor y Suerte: Exitos Romanticos collection (2004) -- with no alternatives, not even budget-line knockoffs. The long-overdue release of The Essential Gloria Estefan thankfully resolved this gripe, for it includes the highlights from all aspects of Estefan's varied output, spread generously across two jam-packed discs. (Well, it does exclude her bounty of Spanish-language recordings, the highlights of which can be found on Oye Mi Canto: Los Exitos, an excellent single-disc retrospective released simultaneously. But at least there are some key inclusions here from the excellent Mi Tierra album from 1993 -- a full-length that deserves to be heard in full. Pretty much all the Miami Sound Machine hits are here, beginning with "Dr. Beat," as are all of Estefan's initial solo smashes from Cuts Both Ways (1989) and Into the Light (1991). Some of these songs are featured in their single versions, notably "Bad Boy," "1-2-3," and "Live for Loving You," which is a good call in those cases, because these versions were the ones that became radio hits. There is also a lot of Estefan's post-prime material here, taken from albums like Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me (1994), Destiny (1996), and Gloria! (1998); and there are a few songs previously found only on compilations, most notably the beautiful "I See Your Smile." But the emphasis overall is on Estefan's more popular, earlier material, and rightfully so. The sequencing may be an issue for some, as it splits her songs between a "fast" and "slow" disc -- that is, a disc of dance-pop and one of ballads. It's an appropriate decision, for Estefan's music always did veer back and forth from one extreme to the other. However, the decision to sequence the discs non-chronologically is more troublesome, especially for those who would prefer the Miami Sound Machine material front-loaded in favor of the less well-known latter-day solo recordings. These minor matters aside, The Essential Gloria Estefan is without question the one-stop English-language retrospective that her catalog had been lacking for years. A more succinct single-disc collection (for instance, the Miami Sound Machine-heavy Greatest Hits) may be more suitable for the less committed, but anyone looking for the full package need not look further. That is, unless you want her Spanish-language hits, too, in which case there's the likewise full-package Oye Mi Canto: Los Exitos.
Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Dr. Beat
  2. Rhythm Is Gonna Get You
  3. Heaven's What I Feel [Radio Edit]
  4. Everlasting Love [Video Version]
  5. You'll Be Mine (Party Time) [Rosabel's Fiesta Edit]
  6. Get on Your Feet
  7. Go Away [Single Remix]
  8. Don't Let This Moment End [Radio Edit]
  9. No Me Dejes de Querer
  10. Bad Boy [Single Version]
  11. 1-2-3 [Single Remix]
  12. Oye Mi Canto (Hear My Voice) [English Version]
  13. Live for Loving You [Single Remix]
  14. ¡Sí Señor!
  15. Oye [Pablo Flores English Remix Radio Edit][Edit]
  16. Turn the Beat Around
  17. Mi Tierra
  18. Conga
  19. Doctor Pressure [Miami Sound Machine vs. Mylo]
  20. Can't Stay Away from You
  21. Don't Wanna Lose You
  22. Anything for You
  23. Falling in Love (Uh Oh)
  24. Words Get in the Way
  25. Cuts Both Ways
  26. Here We Are
  27. If We Were Lovers
  28. Nayib's Song (I Am Here for You)
  29. Reach
  30. Music of My Heart
  31. I See Your Smile
  32. I'm Not Giving You Up
  33. Wrapped
  34. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
  35. Along Came You (A Song for Emily)
  36. Coming out of the Dark
  37. Always Tomorrow
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