Mar 222024

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!


Sometimes only a greatest hits will do, a necessity to hit those spots and scratch those itches. For me, Kraftwerk’s The Catalogue is one of those times.

I guess that sort of reveals me as the dilettante I try so hard to pretend I am not. But dilettante or no, I bow to no one in my like of some of Kraftwerk’s MO–which, I guess, gives it all away. It’s true, I confess to not having the traction for the band’s entire oeuvre, but the ones I know, I love. More importantly, I recognize their pivotal position, as popular music discovered the absence of a need for guitars. Tougher call than it sounds, but these guys stuck steadfastly to this template throughout various permutations for over half a century, whilst their minions and acolytes all started slyly adding guitars and, horrors, live drums. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Depeche Mode.)

The Catalogue is one of many Kraftwerk kompilations that exist, and probably the best one for the attention of Kraftwerk civilians like me, primarily as it has the highest headcount of hits. Before all start shouting at the screen, The Catalogue, as in the commercially released version, was indeed an eight-disc remastering of the original existing catalogue. But a promo single-disc compilation was also made available (and, according to Discogs, is able to buy, pre-loved, for a very reasonable outgoing). That’s the one I’m basing this Full Album post on. Is this a slightly deceitful ploy? Maybe, but this is my post and, given I actually have a copy, I can. Besides, let’s be honest–who can even remember the original of “Der Stimme De Energie”? (Go on, then, hum it!)

Señor Coconut y Su Conjunto – Autobahn (Kraftwerk cover)

Now you may feel it harsh to kick off with what might, at first glance, seem to be a parody. But I disagree, finding it to be a very faithful, and even honorable, transition from the glossy and gaunt electronica of the original into an affectionately flawed and organic tribute. Actually, from an entire album of Kraftwerk covers by Coconut, the seriousness of the project goes as far as to delineate which South American musical form is being applied. In this case it is a Cumbia/Merengue mash-up. Coconut is, disappointingly, an assumed name, with both he and his Conjunto being all the work of another German musician, a contemporary even of Kraftwerk. Thanks go out, then to one Uwe Schmidt, a prodigious writer and producer in his own right, a pioneer in the same nascent electronic movement that begat his inspiration here.

What Kraftwerk thought of the project, entitled El Baile Alemán, is uncertain, but they were certainly aware of it, to the extent they condoned the release, provided Schmidt removed his cover of their “Radio-Activity.” He has subsequently released albums devoted to Yellow Magic Orchestra and to more orthodox classic rock and pop songs.

Damien Jurado & Richard Swift – Radio-Activity (Kraftwerk cover)

Hardly the likeliest pairing to cover the ‘Werk, but Damien Jurado has always hidden a far wider taste in music than his often starkly simple songs of angst might suggest. For a ridiculously eclectic covers selection, 2010’s Other Peoples’s Songs, Volume 1, encompassing also unlikely bedfellows as Chubby Checker, John Denver and the prog-rock behemoth Yes, Jurado hooked up with his old buddy Richard Swift, the producer of several of his albums, and a multi-instrumentalist to boot. The project arose out of a weekend they each had to spare, mucking about in the studio. The idea for “Radio-Activity” was to excise some of the electronic polish and add some Lee Hazlewood-esque charm into the song, and, in a bizarre mix of the two contrasting elements, it works. Note that the last verse is sung in German. Jurado, for those unaware, has also quite a life as an electronic artist, frequently adding found sounds and tape fragments to his recordings, if reverting to his penchant for maudlin melancholy guitar of late.

Christian Prommer’s Drumlesson – Trans-Europe Express (Kraftwerk cover)

Proving that no genre doesn’t carry the capability to carry off Kraftwerk, this jazz trio find a bizarre meeting place where “Trans-Europe Express” remains, broadly, recognizable, even without any vocal complement. With the drums alone as it starts, the wonder is to where it might go, the then equally frantic bass slotting in with vim. The piano then bridges the two and finds a melody line in the repetition, the whole not dissimilar to the more off=piste noodlings of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

An Historic – The Man-Machine (Kraftwerk cover)

It would be stretching things to say this is a polka cover, however much I’d love to pretend it was. But if you think the accordion is the last instrument one might imagine could be adapted into covering this song, remember that the instrument, by and large, was a precursor for 20th century synthesizers, being designed to replicate the sound of a whole orchestra. (I’ve talked about this before.) What is especially pertinent to this song is the use of modern day technology, looping, to add the hand percussion backing track. An Historic is the nom de joue of Adam Matlock, and this is one of his fortes, the transmogrification of electronica into squeezebox formulae. (You should hear his “Sonic the Hedgehog”!) He also scatters his playing across innumerable other styles and has worked with avant garde composer, Anthony Braxton, as well as with the fabulously named folk destructionist group Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps. Of course I mention them as much for their name as their canon, which encompasses klezmer through Irish, spirituals and old-timey to punk. To get a taste of his diversity, his YouTube channel is a good place to start.

Ebony Steel Band – Computer World (Kraftwerk cover)

This translates pretty well, I think, but a full album might prove a little heavy on the patience. For this is from a steel band tribute to Kraftwerk, called, get it, Pan Machine. The sleeve artwork further labors the pun, but it has a panache and enthusiasm that lifts the idea into being better than it should be. The Ebony Steel Band, who hail from the UK, are a longstanding institution in steel band circles, having won the national Panorama competition at Notting Hill Carnival a record 22 times, eleven times of those in succession. Now a Trust rather than a band or collective, they offer training, tuition and support for their community, as well as nightly activities, workshops and concerts. All in all a thoroughly good thing. Other albums include Beatles covers, Afro-Caribbean favorites from soul and reggae, as well as popular classics, suggesting no sense of genre adhered to.

CMO Plus – Techno Pop (Kraftwerk cover)

What we haven’t had yet is an electro cover, and this Japanese band is just the bunch to remedy that. In truth, “Techno Pop” is not the strongest of cuts, but this foursome really inject some wallop into the tune, updating it with clarity and passion, offering a much clearer sound than in the original. Annoyingly, it is difficult to find out much about them, or even if they actually are the individuals in the video. I imagine, and am happy to be corrected, that they are part of a wider production team, the other videos available going by the names of CMO or CMO MV. All seem part of the Miya Music platform, Miya being perhaps the name of the music composer, programmer, producer and mastering engineer seen in some available linktree information. Whatever, it’s fun.

Oliver Dolgener – The Robots (Kraftwerk cover)

Another bedroom studio engineer effort, and another terrific recreation of the style and mood of the original, yet involving little more than acoustic guitar, being multi tracked within an inch of its life. Occasionally it is in the depths of YouTube where such discoveries come, rather than via the usual sources, and is a timely reminder of the inventiveness of individuals with not a contract or record company in sight, simply making music for the damn pleasure of it. Dolgener is a young German, self-taught, initially, on his grandfather’s battered Spanish guitar. Now he is a trained audio-engineer, with his own home studio, adept on keyboards also, with a stash of varied material across Soundcloud and YouTube.

DJ Tahira – Tour de France (Kraftwerk cover)

Sticking with synths, this nugget demonstrates just how much difference a rhythm can make, the polyrhythmic drum rhythms transferring the tour from the Pyrenees to the Amazon, courtesy Brazilian DJ, Tahira. Carrying a hint of Timmy Thomas across the grooves, this is a wonderfully balmy 5 1/2 minutes, and comes from Kraftworld, a tribute album to Kraftwerk from Brazil. I can’t confess to knowing much about Tahira, or, indeed, any of the others featured, but is all seems to show that not all electronic music needs to eschew all vestiges of soulfulness, irrespective the efficiency of the more Teutonic iterations of the band being feted.

Snakefinger – The Model (Kraftwerk cover)

A clever move, in Kraftwerk’s programming of the source material, to put their best, and best known, track at the end. Possibly the song that defines the band, “The Model” has sustained a plethora of covers, encompassing all genres known to man (and possibly a few not); favorites include folkindie and dub reggae. But today, it is Snakefinger’s unorthodox rendering that gets the platter. Snakefinger, aka Phil Lithman, a guitarist and fiddle player, was so called because his lengthy fingers, noticed when he hooked up with L.A. oddballs, The Residents, with whom he was associated between 1975 and 1987. Originally from the UK, his earlier claim to fame came with Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers, bastions of the then pub-rock movement, where their wacky confection of country, blues and swing caught more eyes than wallets. This version displays his idiosyncratic way with a slide guitar, and, I think it fair to say, it quite defies any obvious categorization. His guitar spends almost like a 1920s tea band, with the vocals, um, distinctly erratic. But, courtesy the indestructible baseline, it gets its hooks in, with, before you know it, you’re singing along with him.

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