Stevie Wonder's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants"
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|Journey through the Secret Life of Plants|
|Soundtrack album by Stevie Wonder|
|Released||October 30, 1979|
|Recorded||February - April 1979, 1:A.M. Studios, Irvine, CA; Crystal Recording Studio, Hollywood, CA; Lyon Recording Studio, Newport Beach, CA; Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia, PA; Motown Recording Studios, Hollywood, CA; Studio In The Country, Bogalusa, LA|
|Genre||R&B, New Age, Adult Contemporary|
|Stevie Wonder chronology|
|Singles from Stevie Wonder's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants"|
Stevie Wonder's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants" is an album by Stevie Wonder, originally released on the Tamla Motown label on October 30, 1979 (see 1979 in music). It is the soundtrack to the documentary The Secret Life of Plants, directed by Walon Green which was based on the book of the same name by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird.
Wonder created the film score through a complex process of collaboration. The film's producer, Michael Braun, described each visual image in detail, while the sound engineer, Gary Olzabal, specified the length of a passage. This information was processed to a four-track tape (with the film's sound on one of the tracks), leaving Wonder space to add his own musical accompaniment. The result is an underscore that, at times, closely mimics the visual images on the screen.
The film was seen by few people, severing whatever connection the music may have had to actual visual images. Motown decided to release the album on its own as the long-awaited sequel to Stevie Wonder's 1976 Grammy Award-winning Songs in the Key of Life. Journey through the Secret Life of Plants was panned by many critics and was confusing to many fans, who didn't know what to make of the conceptual, mostly instrumental double album. Yet some took Wonder's ambitious attempt seriously. "At this point," one review read, "he looks to be the most effective and powerful composer to wed classical Western music with the Afro-American basis for most American pop music today."
Wonder attempted to translate the complex information of the book and film into song lyrics, with often disturbing results. "Same Old Story," for example, tries to convey the scientific findings of Jagadish Chandra Bose, who developed instruments to measure plants' response to stimuli, and the breakthroughs of African-American agriculturalist George Washington Carver. The result, according to one reviewer, has "the painful awkwardness of a barely literate sidewalk sermon." Yet Wonder's musical genius "manages to transform even the worst of this drivel into a spiritual jargon that's virtually a different language; his very inarticulateness clears the way for us to tune in to the ineffable, nonrational flow that's his obsession." 
Such was Wonder's commercial appeal at the time that Journey went all way up to number four in the Rock and R&B Billboard charts in 1979 and was also certified platinum by Productores de Música de España, while the single "Send One Your Love" also reaching number four. It is now considered by many to be a classic in its own right, and has been cited by Wonder himself as one of his three favorite albums: "'Secret Life' was an experimental project with me scoring and doing other things I like: challenging myself with all the things that entered my mind from the Venus's Flytrap to Earth's creation to coming back as a flower."  It is also considered, in many listeners's minds, to be one of the earliest New Age albums of all time, mainly in part because of the nature and instrumental songs on the album.
The album cover contained some braille, and when you unsealed and opened it, you smelled a flowery perfume.
Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants" contained unusual synthesizer combinations including the first use of a digital sampling synthesizer, the Computer Music Melodian, used in virtually every track of the album. Journey is also notable for being an early digital recording, released three months after Ry Cooder's Bop till You Drop, generally believed to be the first digitally recorded popular music album. Stevie Wonder was an early adherent of the technology and used it for all his subsequent recordings.
All songs written, produced and arranged by Stevie Wonder, except where noted.
- Allmusic review
- Robert Christgau review
- Rolling Stone review
- Nathan Brackett; Christian David Hoard (2004-11-02). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon & Schuster. p. 885. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8.
- Scaruffi, Piero (1999). "Stevie Wonder". pieroscaruffi.com. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
- Starr, Red. "Albums". Smash Hits (November 15–28 1979): 31.
- Yahoo! Music review
- Zita Allen, "Stevie Wonder," Stereo Review, May 1980, p. 59.
- Crispin Cioe, "Stevie Wonder's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants," High Fidelity/Musical America, February, 1980, p. 111.
- Stephen Holden, "The Last Flower Child," Village Voice December 3, 1979, p. 53.
- "Sólo Éxitos 1959-2002 Año A Año: Certificados 1979-1990" (in Spanish). Iberautor Promociones Culturales. ISBN 8480486392.
- "Billboard Century Award: Q & A," Billboard December 11, 2004, pp. 15-16.