Coffee Plant Demos [no label 1CD Torrent: 56389]
Leftovers 1970-'74: Coffee Plant Demos Upgraded [no label 1CD Torrent: 56685]

Live in Los Angeles.

One of the legends of Fleetwood Mac collecting, the Coffee Plant Demos are so called because Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks first began working as a duo, during 1971-72, by recording in the basement of the coffee plant owned by Lindsay’s father Morris.

It is not, as countless Internet sources insist, the most accurate title, as several of the songs ("Sorcerer" and "Garbo" among them) were written after the couple reached Los Angeles. But still the full set of seven songs - unmixed recordings across the first disc, full-blooded stereo tracks on the second - is a flawless snapshot of the duo as they worked towards their eponymous debut album, with a handful of numbers (the Everlys-esque "Without You," the rollicking "Cathouse Blues," and the odd little "The Goldfish and the Ladybug") having never seen the light of day on an official release. And there’s a raw feel to the recordings that is often superior to the somewhat over-produced sheen that marred Buckingham-Nicks.

The haunting "Nomad" and the scratchy "Garbo" are the highlights of the seven songs, Nicks already on track towards the flowering that would burst forth via "Crystal," "Landslide" and "Rhiannon," and this is even more pronounced across three songs appended to the end of disc two, recorded live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1974. Working with a full band, "Lola (My Love)," "Races Are Run" and - a prototype "Rhiannon," still awaiting the full weight that it would eventually gain, but still pretty muscular - blast forth, and leave you wishing that the rest of the performance could have fitted onto the disc. - Dave Thompson

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June 15, 2007