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4.6 out of 5 stars28
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 10 February 2011
I know that typical Steve Wonder fans migth not like this too much and I also know it more or less bombed commercially but I think it's a masterpiece. It's from Stevie's most prolific period in which he often hit the nail on the head. I like his more commercial material most when he goes totally "funky Clavinet", like in "Sir Duke" & "Happy Birthday" , let's say in the style on which Jamiroquay have based their whole imitative career.

This however is a whole other cup of tea. Being more anchored in the european music tradition this is my choice as Stevie Wonder's masterpiece. It's a melange of very differing tracks that somehow still fit together perfectly. Especially Stevie's keyboard playing on the Yamaha GX-1 synthesizer is unsurpassed. Nowadays one uses samples to emulate orchestral sounds but they very often sound bland and unexpressive. Stevie's mastery of this analog monstersynth however almost breathes as much life in the material as a real orchestra. Fantastic!

Some highlights are: "Earth's Creation" , "The First Garden" , "Voyage to India" (that intro proves the above point if anything does!), "Venus Flytrap and the Bug", "Race Babbling", "A Seed's a Star", "Tree medley", "Tree", "Finale". But also more typical Wonderous quality material is to be found here, like "Power Flower", "Send One your Love", etc..

I even like the Flower Powery messages. But then I am old enough to epreciate such arcane thoughts.

I'd like to see the film for which this is supposed to be the soundtrack but this can stand on it's own any time. So maybe the film would only be a disappointment.

It almost makes you forget later Wonder dribble like "I just called to say....". Almost!
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on 19 July 2001
I bought this album having heard most of Stevie's other work, and in the knowledge that it was panned by the critics. After my first listen I was left...confused. I hadn't heard anything like it before and, if I'm honest, i didn't really like most of it. But I know that the greatest works grow on you, so I listened again, and a few tracks began to stand out. "Same Old Story" is undoubtedly my favourite song on the album, along with most of the other vocal tracks, but many of the instrumentals are also worthy of praise, in particular "Ecclesiastes". I think it's a bit of a shame that this album didn't feature in the series of digitally remastered Wonder albums released in 2000 because, although it doesn't rank with the best of his work, this is certainly a Stevie Wonder masterpiece, and the most interesting and challenging work of his career. I wouldn't buy this album until you are familiar with Stevie's other works, and certainly not unless you're prepared to sit down and really LISTEN hard, because only then will you be rewarded.
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on 18 March 2008
This album ended the remarkable run of albums Wonder wrote, performed and produced in the 70s, starting with Music of my mind and finishing in Songs in the key of life. This album is almost unrecognisable from any of them. It was the sound track of a film which has sunk without trace, but I'd love to see it. I understand that much of the music is written to go with the film with scenes as strange as hooking a plant up to electrodes and measuring it's sensitivity while they chop a head of lettuce in front of it. Consequently much of this album is soundscapes and disappointing to anyone seeking radio friendly pop songs.

The reason it was a commercial flop by Wonder's standards is obvious. There were 3 years between songs in the key of life and this. Three years of building excitement and plenty enough time for him to have produced a second stunning album of creativity. Arguably that's just what he did, but do not buy this album expecting anything like what went before.

That said the chances are if you're even reading this review you're a Stevie fan, and this album requires patience and requires you to be devoted lover of his music. I'd echo what another reviewer says here; if you listen to the whole album some parts actually sound like plants are surrounding you.

The patient listening is ultimately rewarding and amongst the strange stuff are some superb songs. Power Flower, Send one your love, Black Orchid and in particular Come back as a Flower are brilliant songs and not that far removed from the Stevie Wonder sound you know and love.

What makes this album all the more special is it is like a secret - hardly anyone knows these songs, so why not let yourself be one of the lucky ones?

It was a watershed album for Stevie, he never again dared to make such an inventive album, but at the same time he's never again made music as good either.
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on 8 March 2001
This album is a world away from Stevie's early 70s work, which is wholeheartedly recommended. I'm sure it would have worked wonderfully as a soundtrack to the Secret Life of Plants documentary, but as an album it's a very bizarre experience.
Many of the tracks are detailed, evocative instrumentals, mostly built up using synthesizers. Some of them work beautifully but too many of them drag on too long. The songs are pleasant but not as inspired as Stevie's earlier work, although there are a few classics if you can get past the clumsy eco-friendly lyrics.
If you have Stevie's earlier work and go in with an open mind, you'll probably get a lot out of this. However, this is not the place to start; try Talking Book instead.
The great tragedy is that this was the last time Stevie gave free rein to his artistic impulses; this album didn't sell half as well as Motown wanted and they forced Stevie to rush release an album of hits (Hotter Than July) the following year. Since then he's been torn between producing great, artistic music like this and AOR mush, satisfying no-one. What a shame.
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on 1 September 2002
Ask every Black arist to chart their influences and somewhere in the list is ALWAYS Stevie wonder, So many Covered/Sampled songs throughout the last 30 years, especially in dance music. And if you are already a fan you love them already(I Wish, Sir Duke, All I Do, Master Blaster).
But, like every one, once in a while you just wanna chill. Thats where this album come into it's own. Listen REALLY hard, don't paint the house while you have it on.(for that i'd recommend Innervisions!) Just sit in a chair and relax. This REALLY is a Journey, and man do you go places! You can feel stuff GROWING around you as you listen. It's Amazing. If it does'nt make you want to grow plants, travel the world or have children of you own to play it to then your stereo is broken. Buy it! (then buy a new stereo!)
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on 3 February 2013
Undoubtedly, whilst Stevie Wonder has produced some of the most beautiful and inspiring music of the 21st Century with the classics Innervisions, Talking Book, Music of my Mind and Fullfillingness,The Secret Life of Plants really is up there with them. It is hugely complex and so beautifully constructed creating wonderful moods, atmosphere, joyous interludes and one of the most moving pieces of music ever written in Black Orchid. Many of the instrumentals are sublime and Stevie's voice has never been better. It is very different to many of his other albums, but remember also that it was the soundtrack to a film where the evocation of natural beauty has rarely been bettered.

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on 31 December 2012
Brilliant album by Stevie Wonder during a period of his musical career when he was probably at his most creative. This won't appeal to every listener and in many ways is very different from more mainstream Stevie Wonder albums (more instrumental and much more experimental). However, give it a few plays and you will be rewarded!
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on 24 June 2015
I first heard this Album at a friends way back in the Summer of 1982/3
I have fond memories of that time. Turning just 18 and taking my first steps in life.

So bought to remember those good times.

An interesting Album in many respects, sort of a mixture between New Age before New Age existed and mystical music all in one.
This is not Stevie Wonder as you think, this is a totally different style, and in its day so different from the rest.

Try it out first before you buy it.

Best listened to on a summers night, with a long cool drink as the sun is setting.
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on 12 May 2012
I bought this on vinyl when I was a teenager with not much money to spend on records. I'm now 46 and it is still my favourite LP of all time. Some of these songs take you to a different place where you stop what you're doing, slow down and take yourself off for a walk among the trees with a new thoughtful appreciation of their importance in our world. Don't get me wrong I'm not an aged hippy (no offence to aged hippy's!) it's just whenever I get too busy or stressed and the world is moving a bit too fast for me this is the music I listen to as it makes me reconnect with the earth in such a solid way that I'm able to regroup my thoughts in a peaceful but strong way. In these times of worry when we're all so busy and moving just a tad too fast these songs to my mind should be our default music to help us keep up. I hope this review makes even just one person buy this cd and feel the way I do about it.
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on 8 September 2000
By that I mean this is Stevie Wonder taking you to a variety of landscapes and it is unlikely you will be happy with them all, but some you'll love so much it'll make the journey worth while. Plenty to think about if you listen to the words. Ecclesiastes just has to be written for the Me generation - God bless you Bill - nothing new under the sun. But I like the music, the harmonies,the rhythm, the unusual combinations. The wonderful bits are truly wonderful.
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