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.