The Secret Life Of Plants was a documentary film based on the book of the same name. It was cutting-edge and experimental at the time of its release with the use of time-lapsed photography. Unfortunately very few people saw the movie when it was released.
Enter Stevie Wonder, who created the soundtrack. It was a double album of 20 tracks. The initial problem was the quick commercial failure of the film, which meant very few people realized the release was a soundtrack. Most fans and record buyers considered it to be the follow-up studio release to his Songs In The Key Of Life. Many people bought the album expecting typical Stevie Wonder music but were quickly surprised.
Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants is a unique album in his catalogue of work. It was written for a specific purpose. Plus, it contained seven instrumentals, including the first three tracks. He also had more freedom when composing the music, as he was not thinking commercial success. This led to some unique and experimental material, especially with the synthesizer sounds.
The music is gentler than his other work. While there is one funk piece and one social commentary song, for the most part the music has a lush quality to it. In addition, there are a number of classic melodies. In some ways, it has a Duke Ellington quality to it.
The album did produce one big hit single. “Send One Your Love” was a laid-back ballad in the Stevie Wonder tradition and was the most conventional track.
The experimental tracks formed the heart and soul of the album. “Ecclesiastes” contained a number of minor keys and odd tempos. “Kesse Ye Lolo De Ye” makes use of African chants. “Venus Flytrap and The Bug” was a unique jazz composition.
The instrumental tracks were written for specific scenes in the movie, but as album tracks, they make up some of the more imaginative music of his career. They span about 36 minutes and when listened to back-to-back, they form a body of work whose style and sound cannot be found on any other of his releases.
The movie is long gone and so the album stands on its own today. It has aged well as it presents a very different journey from the mind of Stevie Wonder. It is expressive, creative, emotional, and futuristic. It remains an album that needs to be listened to with an open mind.