As already reported by Music Times, Dragonforce unleashed its cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire" onto the world this week, and it was...a little overdone. The track featured typical power metal vocals (high-pitched and over-the-top) and typical power metal guitars (fast, finger-tapped and over-the-top) and the cover totally overlooked the song's classic riff.

One listener was even tougher than us in his review, calling it "one of the worst cover versions I've ever heard. A perfidious gang rape of a legend."

We might not go that far. The good news is that plenty of covers exist of the classic country track, many of which that don't suck. Music Times dug up a few and ranked them accordingly. Don't worry: If you hated Dragonforce's cover, none of them are that bad.

Behold:

08) Frank Zappa off The Best Band You Never Never Heard In Your Life (1991)

Frank Zappa was a guy never content to play the same thing twice, so covers were frequently mixed into his sets. Although we appreciate his slowing down the Cash classic into a Jamaican jam, the vocal interjections from Zappa ("ow! ow! ow!") come off as mocking, especially considering the over-the-top cowboy accent used to sing the original lyrics. The performer wasn't know to respect much of anything, but we prefer his sass aimed at Tipper Gore.

07) Blondie off Blonde and Beyond (1993)

Blondie was perhaps the definition of dance rock during its heyday, whether it's the more rock 'n' roll "One Way or Another" or the disco-savvy "Heart of Glass." That may be the problem here. "Ring of Fire" isn't a dance track, at least in that sense. Kudos to Blondie for sticking to its guns, but the only real highlight on this track is vocalist Debbie Harry's closing catcall "burn, burn, burn, ring of fire!"

06) Alan Jackson off 34 Number Ones (2010)

Jackson's attempt at the country classic isn't embarrassing or deluded at all...it's just boring. The fault may lie in the fact that the performer himself has a baritone, which makes him ideal for mimicking Cash, just not differentiating himself too much from the legend. The track still a good listen for country fans as Lee Ann Womack handles harmonies during the chorus.

05) Odonis Odonis (independent release) (2014)

It's not always wrong to totally flip the genre on its head when recording a cover, but some things are sacred. Hence why we can handle Odonis Odonis's avant garde approach and not Dragonforce's speed metal: the pacing is correct here. Many will be totally confused however as vocalist Dean Tzanos disappears behind guitar feedback, reverb and surf drums. Definitely can't argue the group didn't try something different.

04) Dwight Yoakum off Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. (1986)

Yoakum kind of cheats getting this high on the list. It's not that his version is so far removed from Cash's...it's just that his vocal delivery is totally different. So where Jackson comes up a little short because of his similarities to Cash, Yoakum gets ahead by singing more in a soulful yelp than a thick baritone. It makes enough of a difference to set this track apart.

03) Social Distortion off Social Distortion (1990)

Social D didn't mess with the formula too much...it just changed the instruments. Adjusting the classic horn riff to guitar and riding along at a light chug with a slightly heavier version of the song's guitar part, "Ring Of Fire" seems almost perfectly suited to the "punk blues" approach that the California band has always embraced. It'd be nice if Social Distortion had a few songs of its own aside from "Story Of My Life" that everyday listeners could identify however.

02) Eric Burdon and The Animals off Love Is (1968)

Eric Burdon and his band The Animals made quite a bit of money by playing covers, as did all early British rock 'n' roll bands, including The Rolling Stones and even The Beatles for a time. Most of those covers were boring rehashes, but The Animals did right by Cash, taking his version and making it more than just a rock variant. The most impressive choice was to remove almost all of the other instruments during the verses, leaving Burden to wail, effectively, at the top of his lungs.

01) Adam Lambert off American Idol (2009)

This version of Cash's classic shocked audiences and confused judges during Lambert's 2009 run on American Idol, a show where contestants more often than not simply spit back nearly identical versions of the hit songs they're performing. Lambert performed the track for the "Grand Ole Opry" episode and made his version decidedly not Nashville. "Ring Of Fire" has a certain international feel thanks to its Mexican horns, and Lambert's cover maintains the foreign essence while changing the culture completely. He adopts an oud as his backing track and performs his vocals accordingly. A cover that's totally respectful and yet totally unique to its origins. You can tell it's great because of these introspects from the judges who we've learned to distrust: "It was strange...it left me confused." -Kara DioGuardi..."I thought it was absolute indulgent rubbish." -Simon Cowell..."If Nine Inch Nails did a country song..." -Randy Jackson.


adam lambert on american idol ring of fire+judges by ggzmkst