After scoring 24 Top 40 hits between 1957 and 1962, the Everly Brothers went cold in 1963, failing to reach the Billboard Hot 100 even once. They made a slight recovery in 1964, placing two songs in the chart, one of which, "Gone, Gone, Gone," made the Top 40. But in essence, their commercial run was over, though, of course, they didn't know it yet. This two-fer CD includes the contents of two LPs from the era and other recordings, most of them made in 1963 and 1964. The only coherent album collection is the initial 12 tracks making up Sing Great Country Hits, recorded in June 1963 and released in October. Here, the Everlys, as the title indicates, provide their renditions of songs that were hits in the country charts for the likes of Don Gibson, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams, among others. There are ringers in the selection. "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" did make the country Top 20, but it came from the Springfields, the British folk trio that produced Dusty Springfield, and was more of a pop song; "Lonely Street" was the Andy Williams pop hit that, as Andrew Sandoval reveals in his liner notes, Don Everly felt was stolen from the brothers when both acts recorded for Cadence Records in the '50s. Recording in Hollywood, the Everlys are backed by an A-list of session musicians including guitarist Glen Campbell and pianist Leon Russell, who does his best to imitate Nashville's Floyd Cramer on the tracks.
In the fall of 1964, when the Everly Brothers returned to the Top 40 with their self-written "Gone, Gone, Gone," Warner Bros. Records, hastily cobbled together an album of the same name to tie in with the hit, using some recently recorded material, other tracks that had appeared on recent singles, and even some songs that dated back to 1960 when the duo began at the label. For all that, it wasn't such a bad album, dominated by songs written by Felice & Boudleaux Bryant, who had penned many of the brothers' hits; John D. Loudermilk; and the Everlys themselves. The compilation adds another 11 tracks recorded in 1963-1964, among them the previously unreleased "I Think of Me" and "Girls, Girls, Girls (What a Headache)," and a previously unreleased alternate take of "Trouble." Again, these are songs written by the Everlys, the Bryants, and the Brill Building team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil for the most part, so this is good material, performed in the Everly Brothers' familiar style. It just so happens that they were not as popular (if they were even released at the time) as the hits the Everlys had scored earlier in their career.