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This album was also released as 'The Tomita Planets' and 'The Planets (Deluxe Edition)'. Patrick Gleeson, who did several classical synthesizer albums using the Emu Modular synthesizer, released his own version of Holst's 'The Planets' on Mercury Records. There was some consternation at RCA and Mercury that both artists had worked unknown to each other on a synthesizer version of the same piece. 'The Tomita Planets' was more than likely so named in the USA to avoid the confusion the record companies were fearful of.

'The Planets' was taken out of market for a few years by court order from Gustav Holst's relatives. They claimed that Tomita had manhandled their father's great composition, and the record company withdrew some 30,000 records from the stores. Despite this, 'The Planets' is arguably Tomita's most complete and popular work, and was listed as one of the best keyboard albums over the past 20 years or so by Keyboard Magazine.

The last album to be released by RCA Records in the quadraphonic format. See also details about the construction of these tracks on the 'Sound Creature' page.

Album Details

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Catalogue Number
JB-10819 / PB-10819 (7" Single of 'Mars'/'Venus')
RVC-2111 / RL 81919 / ARL1-1919 / ARD1-1919 (LP)
RCC-1023 / RK 81919 / RCAV 60518 (Cassette)
RCD1-1919 / RCAV 60518 / RCA 60518 / 60518-2-RG / RCD1-1919 (CD)


Date Released

Total Playing Time

  1. Mars, The Bringer of War (10:54)
  2. Venus, The Bringer of Peace (8:39)
  3. Mercury, The Winged Messenger (5:22)
  4. Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity (17:26)
    Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age
  5. Uranus, The Magician (9:45)
    Neptune, The Mystic


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[The Planets]
[Front View]
[The Planets]
[Back View]
[The Planets]
[The Planets]
24 by 24 inch poster.
Sticker from the front cover of the record.


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"Record Reviews", Down Beat Magazine, vol. 44, p. 26, 19 May, 1977

Unlike Patrick Gleeson, who recently recorded a synthesizer version of Holst's The Planets for Mercury, Tomita doesn't try to recreate the exact sound of the original orchestral work. In contrast to the mechanized feeling of Gleeson's rendition, Tomita uses his space age instrument to express a very human vision.

In his free-form introduction to Holst's material, for instance, Tomita suggests that the listener is strapped aboard a spaceship, waiting to blast off. After the countdown, he launches into a version of Mars which, while imitating some acoustic instruments, recalls the synthesizer parts of many rock compositions.

The echoing string sounds of Venus also suggest the pop usage of the synthesizer. Similarly, the wide-ranging eclecticism of the timbres heard in Mercury transforms this whimsical piece into a highly sophisticated form of pop imagery.

Tomita often used the contrast between purely electronic and instrumental-like sounds as a source of humor. In Jupiter, for example, the jousting of these elements creates a carnival atmosphere.

Things begin to get more serious - and more electronically-oriented - in Saturn, The Bringer of Old Age. Both here and in Uranus, The Magician, Tomita depicts a journey toward the fringes of the solar system and outer space: the unknown.

This is the point at which real philosophical content merges with Tomita's pop style. And it is this content, combined in Neptune with the goofy spaciness that pervades the earlier cuts, which makes Tomita's concept something more than escapist entertainment.

Tupper Saucy, "The Planets - Tomita (1976) RCA Red Seal", Silencer Online Music Magazine, 20 July, 1996

What motivates a person to undertake to faithfully reproduce orchestral music on a heap of synths? A one-man misanthropic mission to put all human musicians out of work? Maybe an alien encounter? In this case, the latter seems the more likely explanation, given the sounds Tomita coaxed from his arsenal of boxes when he recorded his version of Holst's Planets suite. That and his claim that he was shown how to create the sounds by music teachers of a hugely advanced civilization from another universe.

The beginning of this album has to be heard to be believed and it's the perfect bait to reel you in for the whole experience. It's one of the main themes from the work, played on a music box, accompanied by a sound which conjures up a spacecraft coming in to land, which in turn is then interrupted by astronauts' voices chattering away in their alien 'wah' dialect. Download the file called 'Astrovoice' and strap yourself in tight for a real flavour of what I'm ranting about here. It's hilarious but spot on.

This is no half-baked adaptation but a note-by-note transcription of the work. Often, it's so faithful to the spirit of the original piece that you'd imagine that Holst might have really dug it, though sometime after its release, it was taken out of circulation for few years by a court order obtained by Holst's relatives, who claimed that Tomita had manhandled the composition. Jeez, he only got the robots in to do a better job.

Given the popularity of old synthesizers now, the lexicon/palette of sounds on this album is strikingly familiar and it gives the electronica maestros, eulogised elsewhere in these pages, a damn fine run for their money. There's a place for all the cheesiest keyboard sounds as they're each effortlessly put in their perfect settings. In fact, Rick Wakeman never sounded so bad.

It's not really so many giant steps away from the friendly neighbourhood of the repetitive beat but, era notwithstanding, the sounds are amazing, lending much credence to Tomita's claims of inter-galactic evening classes. Many are very reminiscent of those which form the soundtrack of the film, 'Forbidden Planet', a score so strange and wonderful that it demands more than just a footnote here.

Apparently reviled and adored in equal proportions by those who've heard of him, probably many of the former bought his albums when they were marketed in the 70s as THE music of the future. Not that it sounds dated to 90s ears. Even now, there's no stopping the Honorary President of the Japan Synthesizer Programmers Association. He's packed a lot into over thirty years of knob-twiddling. During that time, amongst other madcap shenanigans, he's held 'Sound Cloud' concerts, where whole clusters of sound are sent across continents, then whacked out into space. He's even got a new album scheduled for release this year, entitled ...ahem... 'Bach Fantasy', but take my word for it: THIS is the one you need.

Rick, Tomita eats your heart out...

Sleeve Notes

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This Album was Produced, Arranged, Programmed for Synthesizers, Performed, Recorded and Mixed Down by Isao Tomita
Electronically Created by Isao Tomita
Produced by Plasma Music, Inc.
Recorded in 1976
Sound Design and Dolby Surround Remix Supervisor: Nathaniel S. Johnson
Engineer: Marian Conaty
Dolby Lab Consultants: Robert S. Warren and Michael V. DiCosmo
Monitored Exclusively on Snell Acoustics Loudspeakers Designed by Kevin Voecks


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Component Equipment Used by Tomita for This Album
Moog SynthesizerQuantity
914 Extended Range Fixed Filter Bank
125Hz - 5KHz, 12-Band Highpass/Lowpass Filter
904-A Voltage-Controlled Lowpass Filter
24dB per Octave Classic Moog Lowpass Filter
904-B Voltage-Controlled Highpass Filter
24dB per Octave Highpass Filter
904-C Filter Coupler1
901 Voltage-Controlled Oscillator
Used as a VCO or an LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) as on the Minimoog
921 Voltage-Controlled Oscillator
0.01Hz - 40kHz Frequency Range
901-A Oscillator Controller
1 Volt per Octave
921-A Oscillator Driver
1 Volt per Octave
901-B Oscillator
The Basis of the Moog Sound
921-B Oscillator
Newer and More Stable than 901-B
903-A Random Signal Generator
White/Pink Noise Generator for Wind/Rain/Sea Effects
911 Envelope Generator
2ms - 10s Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release Configuration
911-A Dual Trigger Delay
2ms - 10s 2 Channel Delay Unit
902 Voltage-Controlled Amplifier
Linear/Exponential Amplifier with 2 Inputs, 2 Outputs, 3 Control Voltages
912 Envelope Follower2
984 Four-Channel Mixer1
960 Sequential Controller
8 Steps by 3 Rows Sequencer with Fully Variable Voltages
961-CP Interface
CV/Trigger to Moog S-Trig Convertor for 960 Sequencer
962 Sequential Switch
Configures 960 Sequencer
950 Keyboard Controller
49-Note Monophonic Keyboard
950-B Scale Programmer1
956 Ribbon Controller
Alternative to the Keyboard
6401 Bode Ring Modulator
Combines 2 Inputs, and Outputs the Sum and Difference,
Classically Used for Metallic Sounds, Such as Bells,
Designed by Harald Bode
1630 Bode Frequency Shifter1
959 X-Y Controller
Joystick Controller for Mixing 2 Signals
905 Reverberation Unit
Spring-Type Reverberation
Roland SynthesizerQuantity
714A Interface1
704C Voltage-Controlled Amplifier1
715A Multimode Filters1
723A Analog Switch1
720B 2 Ch. Phase Shifter1
721A 2 Ch. Audio Delay
700-Series Modules Later Incorporated into Roland System 700 Modular
Quad/Eight Compumix (24 Ch.)1
Sony MX-710 (8 Ch.)2
Sony MX-16 (8 Ch.)3
Tape RecorderTape Speed
Ampex MM-1100 16 Tracks76 cm/s
Ampex AG-440 4 Tracks (1/2")38 cm/s
TEAC 80-8 8 Tracks (1/2")38 cm/s
TEAC A-3340S 4 Tracks (1/4")38 cm/s
TEAC 7030GSL 2 Tracks38 cm/s
Sony TC-9040 4 Tracks (1/4")38 cm/s
Noise Reduction 
dbx 187 
AKG BX20E Echo Unit1
Revac Echo Unit1
Binson Echorec "2"2
Roland Space Echo RE-2011
Eventide Clockworks "Instant Phaser"1
Maestro Phase Shifter1
Roland Phase Shifter2
Fender "Dimention IV"1
Maestro Sound System for Woodwinds1
Maestro Rhythm 'n' Sound for Guitar1
Sony Transceiver CB-107
For Those Spacemen Sound Effects
Fender Electronic Piano
Probably a Rhodes Suitcase Model
Hohner Clavinet C1
Sitar with Barcus-Berry Contact Microphone1
Roland Strings RS-2021
Mellotron (Chorus, Flute, Timpani)1
Electronic Harp1
Leslie Speaker Model 147
For 'Rotating' Sounds, Popular with Hammond Organs
Sankyo Orgel Rhythmica
Designed to Set the Music by Punch Card System

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