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🌵 Desert Sessions 🌵 2.0: Cheap Used Records – Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants”

February 9, 2023
Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants”

This is a weird-ass follow up to the artistic and commercial success of Songs In The Key Of Life. It is a soundtrack (mostly incidental music, but some songs with vocals too) to a documentary film (based on a book). I have never seen the movie. Last I checked Stevie is blind, so the fact he wrote a movie soundtrack blows my mind.

Some background per Wikipedia

“Wonder created the film score by having Michael Braun, the film’s producer, describe each visual image in detail, while the sound engineer, Gary Olazabal, 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.”

This is not a pop album, but given it is the work of a pop savant, it has pop elements. It is a cool album to examine the more experimental side of Stevie Wonder. This is not a bunch of hit songs like a typical Stevie album. This is for completists only and not an essential Steve album. That being said, I bought this in real time back in the day based on the strength of Songs In The Key Of Life. At the time when I bought this I did not have a very large LP collection and so I played it until I liked it.

A lot of effort was put into the packaging: it is a trifold album cover and there are embossed elements on the cover (including braille).

Outside cover
Inside cover

The braille says:

⠄⠁⠃⠧ ⠯ ⠔⠎⠊⠙⠑ ⠮ ⠑⠍⠃⠕⠎⠎⠫ ⠎⠟⠥⠜⠑ ⠊⠎ ⠮ ⠳⠞⠇⠔⠑ ⠷ ⠁ ⠋⠇⠪⠻ ⠾ ⠧⠑⠔⠫ ⠇⠂⠧⠑⠎⠲
⠠⠌⠑⠧⠊⠑ ⠠⠺⠕⠝⠙⠻⠄⠎ ⠄⠚⠳⠗⠝⠑⠽ ⠄⠐⠹ ⠠⠮ ⠠⠎⠑⠉⠗⠑⠞ ⠠⠇⠊⠋⠑ ⠷ ⠠⠰⠏⠇⠁⠝⠞⠎⠲
Above and inside the embossed square is the outline of a flower with veined leaves. Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants.

This album was recoded and edited on the Sony PCM 1600. Per Wikipedia this: “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.”

I don’t recall how much I paid for this duplicate, but assume a couple of bucks. The vinyl is pretty clean with just a few pops and clicks. The cover has some slight wear. Per Discogs, the value of this LP., even in great shape, is less than five bucks.

One more thing – this is a double album formatted as side one backed by side four and side two backed by side three. These are from the days when most people had a “changer” which was a turntable that played several LPs in sequence without user intervention. In this case the changer would have automatically played side one and two and then the user would flip the two LPs and play sides three and four automatically. Kind of a interesting nuisance in today’s one-at-a-time turntable convention.

The value of this album is more as a novelty: experimental Stevie, packaging, and early digital recording.


From → Music Reviews

  1. Doug permalink

    What are your fave vinyl sources in the Valley?

    • I like Stinkweeds the best – mainly because they have a great vibe. I also like Record High, but it is real far from where I live and so I don’t go there much. Zia has a good selection, but I don’t like the vibe.

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