If any male singer personified all that was best in bossa nova, then Joao Gilberto was surely that definitive figure (alongside maybe Elis Regina who was, however, somewhat younger and covered a later post-bossa period also) and it is only fitting, then, that El Records should devote a two-CD retrospective to his considerable art. Gilberto was in fact highly innovative in his phrasing which was behind the beat and virtually impossible for anyone else to copy. His three albums from the period 1959-19612 are covered here on the first CD with some extremely hard to find earlier recordings handily placed onto the second CD which makes for an unbeatable package and tastily designed graphics adorn the box set and inner sleeve covers. All the great hits are contained on the first CD and include his early success in ‘Chega de Saudade (No more blues)’, a Jobim and Vincius de Moraes co-composition which Dizzy Gillespie would later cover to great effect, the instantly catchy ‘Bim Bom’, ‘Desafinado’ which literally means off-key and yet Gilberto still pulled an instant classic out of the hat, ‘One note samba’ and the list goes on and on. Thirty-six magical songs in all crammed onto a single CD. Gilberto completists, though, will not want to be without this anthology, however, since it contains a whole raft of obscure recordings and these include Gilberto backed by the Milton Banana Trio on ‘Outra Vez”, early 1950s EPs by the singer and then the rest devoted to other artists interpreting the Gilberto repertoire. Elizete Cardoso impresses with her 1958 renditions of the Jobim songbook and Gilberto actually performs as sideman guitarist which is highly unusual. Harmony group Os Cariocas are wonderful on their take of ‘Chega de Saudade’ and deserve an anthology in their own right. Rounding off a musical feast are the terrific graphical reproductions of the original albums and photos/posters of the era when Brazil ruled the waves musically and on the football field too!