A cover song that plays it safe is worthless, in my book. The fun stems from taking a creative risk and deviating from the original playbook. When a musician exhumes a track from a peer or predecessor's catalog—bonus points if it's in a different genre—and morphs a familiar hit into a daring new arrangement, my audiophile heart skips a beat. Thankfully, it doesn't happen too often, or I'd need a pacemaker.
In the video linked above, Ray Charles tries his hand at Johnny Cash's iconic "ring of fire." The differences in the genre are fascinating enough, but what really sells the cover is the subtle twist on the song's meaning. Whereas Cash croons about a fierce love that immolates the heart it inhabits, Charles gives the lyrics a sinister edge with his soulful delivery- even personifying the devil at one point. It could just be me, but I view Charles' rendition as a meditation on his heroin addiction, with the titular ring of fire being a metaphor for the injection point. In any event, this track just kills, man.