Released to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G.'s death, Greatest Hits places the two "collaborate with a dead legend" albums -- 1999's Born Again and 2005's Duets: The Final Chapter -- on equal ground with Ready to Die and Life After Death, the two landmark albums Biggie released while he was on the planet. Anthologizing one of the most compelling figures in hip-hop history seems like a right thing to do. Basing such a release around four albums that are greatly divided between essential and inessential, however, amounts to something of a mess. Two obscurities are used where it would've made much more sense to select "Mo Money, Mo Problems" and "Going Back to Cali," two of the biggest hits not included on this disc, and it's really off-balance to include three tracks from Born Again when only one more is pulled directly from Ready to Die. Longtime fans need not go near this; the same goes for beginners, who should reach for Ready to Die.
As a celebration of "Tom" Jobim's 60th birthday in 1987, a Brazilian consort simply called the Organization sponsored an album that anthologized his output as a composer. Jobim made the final choices of 24 tunes, recorded them with his band of family and friends, and the results were released privately in a limited edition. Recorded at around the same time as Passarim, it's possible that Jobim did not want this retrospective to compete with his new material. Not until 1995 did the Brazilian arm of BMG put out a commercial edition of this project in a very handsome two-CD box with a beautifully illustrated 38-page color booklet (alas, the contents could have been easily squeezed onto only one CD). It's far from a casual project, obviously carefully rehearsed and polished; rather it's an intimate one, using a minimum of resources, backed only by Jobim's simply-stated piano on several tracks. There is the expected quota of greatest hits like "Desafinado," "One Note Samba," "Chega de Saudades," and "Wave," yet the bulk of the material is not very familiar, often dispatched in to-the-point slices that sometimes clock in at less than two minutes. Jobim also takes a personal flyer by including his countryman Heitor Villa-Lobos' haunting "Seresta No. 5," with just himself on piano backing Danilo Caymmi's vocal, followed by his own "Modinha." Jaques Morelenbaum provides the occasional string arrangements and cello solos, again keeping things uncluttered and decidedly less ambitious than Claus Ogerman's charts on a previous Jobim retrospective, Terra Brasilis. Sometimes the arrangements are unpredictable; "The Girl From Ipanema" omits the words of the first chorus, picking up the thread on the bridge, and the stunning "Estrada do Sol" shifts gears several times. The feeling of saudade is very much front and center on Jobim's birthday present to himself -- he later said that this was his favorite album -- and all of his connoisseurs should try to hunt it down in the import bins.