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. 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 by having Michael Braun, the film's producer, describe 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. Wonder attempted to translate the complex information of the book and film into song lyrics. "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.
Although written mostly by Stevie Wonder, a couple of songs were collaborations with former wife Syreeta Wright and with Michael Sembello. Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants" contained unusual synthesizer combinations including the first use of a digital sampling synthesizer, theComputer Music Melodian, used in virtually every track of the album. Journey is 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, with this album being the second (and charting higher than the album Cooder produced). Stevie Wonder was an early adherent of the technology and used it for all his subsequent recordings.
Motown released the album as the long-awaited sequel to Stevie Wonder's 1976 Grammy Award-winning Songs in the Key of Life. 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 byProductores de Música de España, while the single "Send One Your Love" also reaching number four.
Journey Through "The Secret Life of PlantsT is considered a vague and overambitious album; it has been called "goofy", "nerdy", "odd", "pointless" and "foolish", and for listeners and critics it was seen as too much of a departure from his string of melodic "classic" albums; however, some critics have also found it "courageous", "achingly sweet", and "bafflingly beautiful". Stephen Holden in a review for the Village Voice remarked that the album has "the painful awkwardness of a barely literate sidewalk sermon", though Wonder "manages to transform even the worst of this drivel into a spiritual jargon that's virtually a different language; his very in-articulateness clears the way for us to tune in to the ineffable, nonrational flow that's his obsession."
Wonder remarked in 2004 that the album "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."
All songs written, produced and arranged by Stevie Wonder, except where noted.