The sonorous, roots-oriented Brazilian singer/songwriter Joyce makes for a near-perfect compilation subject; she recorded sparingly, and songs released decades apart sound surprisingly consistent given the time span. Though this excellent Mr. Bongo collection skips her official (and quite timid) debut with Philips in 1968, it begins with several great songs from two years later, when she fronted a difficult, if not quite experimental, pop band named A Tribo (Nana Vasconcelos was also an early member). Taken from those days, "Adeus Maria Fulo" is a sunny pop song, but only after beginning with a menacing synthesizer wash and heavily treated percussion that wouldn't have sounded out of place in a Hammer film. Her next recording session, the 1975 solo LP Passarinho Urbano, attempted to spotlight her favorite government-censored songwriters, among them Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, and Edu Lobo. After another lengthy break from official recordings, Joyce returned in 1980 with Feminina, an album that balanced gleeful Brazilian carnaval sounds with more considered acoustic pop. The Essential Joyce 1970-1996 adds several tracks from its similar follow-up Agua e Luz, plus three more from the '80s and one from 1996's Ilha Brazil. A successful producer in her own right, Joyce wisely kept the focus on her strong, bewitching voice, with several tracks here (notably "Joya" and the surprise hit "Clareana") wisely dropping most every accompanying instrument.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush