Mark: Pretty happy to have gotten over the hump of having to listen to 8 versions of “The Unforgiven”, and pretty happy that there are only 5 versions of “Wherever I May Roam” that we have to listen to.
I vaguely remember this song, but not well enough to put my finger on anything beyond the vocal hook in the chorus. I am not sure that this is a song that I like, but “Holier Than Thou” was in the same boat and now I think that song is pretty cool. Also, the only one of these artists that I’ve actually heard of are The Neptunes (yikes), so this is going to be a real learning experience.
Jay: I’m not sure what to expect here! It’s a short list, and none of it really rings a bell for me. “Wherever I May Roam” is, in my memory, thoroughly an album track (on an album full of hits, granted). Again, I’m not a huge fan of this record, but I’ve found that with each track, I appreciate the originals more and find many covers to sound like they weren’t labours of love, but rather advertisements for the given band’s usual output. There have been some real standouts so far, and almost every track has something that really grabbed me in a positive way. Let’s hope it’s the same here!
J Balvin – “Wherever I May Roam”
Mark: Oh, this is a sample of the actual song already? Now I remember what song this is. This sample doesn’t make the worst hip hop beat, to be honest. But actually, what do I know about what makes a good hip hop beat? This might be the least hip thing in the world for all I know.
So J Balvin appears to be a Spanish-language hip hop artist. It’s difficult to judge whether or not this is good Spanish rapping or bad Spanish rapping. It sounds fine? Some of the transitions in the production are kind of neat.
The song full on cuts into a modified version of the original track in the closing minute or so, which is hilarious. It’s like he said “Alright, I don’t wanna write anymore words, let’s just play the CD.”
I can’t say that I liked this?
Jay: The samples they chose from the original work pretty well, and the sounds they added to complement the original samples are rich and pretty. But it’s all a bit rote. The ratcheted hats, the 808-style kick with the long decay, the cuts at the end of four- or eight-bar segments. It’s all fine, but it doesn’t make me feel very much, and I tuned out once I could predict the structure. Likewise, I don’t get much from the MC work, but then something might be lost in translation for me.
And the middle breakdown (where the original song kicks in) really doesn’t do much for me, and says nothing about the remix artist. I like the way it transitions out, though, back to the bumping beat.
Altogether, some great sounds, a good choice of samples, but not doing very much that’s interesting. It’s not egregiously bad like that fucking Elephant song from Unforgiven, but it’s not for me.
Chase & Status – “Wherever I May Roam”
Mark: Hmm, this is another sample-driven track. Is that what this whole post is going to be? Just electronic/hip hop stuff.
I think I equally don’t understand this one, even through it is in English. Haha. This one really relies on the sample of the one guitar lick, rather than lifting elements from the rest of the song. This one is entertaining due to the track of a guy doing that tongue trill thing in the background incessantly.
I’m not qualified to say whether or not this is good, because this is a style that I have never really enjoyed. I think that the production is pretty underwhelming and the song doesn’t move much structurally.
I can’t say that I liked this…
Jay: Oh man. This is many of the same ideas from the last track, but with a faster tempo, a more saturated bass tone, and the words “blood clot”. Oh, and a lot of those fake gunshot sounds, “b-r-r-r-r-r-rap”.
Like Mark, I’m not sure I can qualify this as good or bad. But I will say it seems, on first listen, relatively uninspired and uninteresting to my ears. Not for me!
The Neptunes – “Wherever I May Roam”
Mark: Lol fuck this
More sampling. This one goes as far to just sample Papa Het’s vocal track (and many other elements) and function as a remix in the vein of White Zombie’s Super Sexy Swingin’ Sounds, which is to say Not Fucking Good.
Not much going on here in terms of creative approach. Interesting to hear the isolated vocals, but the way that they’ve arranged this doesn’t give any lift to the chorus. It sounds like somebody farted this out in an afternoon with a couple of synths, a sampler and a drum machine.
Jay: Mark’s spot on. I will say that I appreciate hearing more than simply the one lick, with a real chord progression. But this feels really slapdash and thrown off in one afternoon. That said, I don’t think it’s any worse than the previous two versions.
You know, I don’t think much of this song, but these versions so far make me wish someone who had truly loved the song had made a cover of it. None of these feel like they’re in love with the source material. All feel lazy. Maybe Mark and I should make a cover of this song.
Grade: F (Mark), D+ (Jay)
Jon Pardi – “Wherever I May Roam”
Mark: Okay, this isn’t just samples. It seems to be a modern Country & Western arrangement, with strings and pretty punchy guitars & drums. It’s not the worst fit in the world. I feel like The Black Album featured a lot of common DNA with country music on a number of tracks, albeit the darker, “high lonesome” kind of cowboy country. Hetfield could definitely do country music if he wanted to.
I don’t love this, but the production is slick as fuck. Some of the violin riffs are pretty well written, and the song is nicely dynamic. It doesn’t take any major risks in terms of structure, but it is certainly presented with a more aggressive vibe in terms of instrumentation than one would expect from a country artist. Vocals work well enough in service of the song, but sort of fall into the category of “generic country guy”.
The fiddle coda that closes the song is my favourite part, because it was genuinely surprising.
Jay: I like where this starts in the instrumentation (though I could live without the fiddle). Once it’s in the “this is a bar band in a country town” section with bass and drums, it ain’t for me, but that’s OK. There’s a plaintiveness to the vocals that I really appreciate, that capture an actual emotion that’s related to the original lyrics. I like that.
This at least feels like an interpretation of the original material, and like it’s featuring the most interesting parts of the original songwriting. And I like the slide guitar! Overall, I think its biggest downfall is adherence to a glossy high-production country band sound, but at least there are a few things in this version that I appreciate.
Metallica – “Wherever I May Roam” (Remastered)
Mark: I don’t know if I’m up for another six minutes of “Wherever I May Roam”, but here we go.
The sitar intro is pretty on-the-nose and tacky, but I guess it was a different time. Band sounds huge when it comes in. I remember this riff from when I was a kid (this album came out when I was 9 years old), and I thought it was a very heavy and evil sounding thing. It’s a pretty cool riff, honestly.
I think this song is pretty interesting structurally. The verses and chorus are all multi-part segments, with atypical chord progressions all over the place. The proper chorus, with its big vocal hook sounds appropriately huge and dramatic for someone making this kind of hilariously overblown “lone wolf” statement. Sounding pretty tough for a guy who would later be featured in a documentary that he took part in that makes him come off as the world’s second most petulant man-baby. His drummer takes the top spot, obviously.
Boring guitar solo, unfortunately. It is practically just a rough draft of the guitar solo from “Enter Sandman”, wahwah pedal and all. Disappointing.
I like this song more than, say, “The Unforgiven”… but I think this is one of my least favourite tracks so far.
Jay: Intro aside, I’d take this song over a lot of chugger heavy songs. The verses especially are interesting in their structure, how the lyrics are delivered on top of the chords, the clean guitar plucking out an arpeggio, and building into the chorus. Even the chorus chords seem backwards, but somehow they totally work.
Unlike Mark, I find the lyrics of the song generally work, mainly because of the chord movement underneath the vocal lines. Like Mark, I think six and a half minutes is a lot of roaming.
The riffy stuff after chorus two and before chorus three is great. They could have easily cut the solo that follows chorus three, though. Unlike Hammett’s best work, this is missing a sense of lyricism or progression.
But the verses, the chordal movement, the late addition to the chorus lyrics (“Carved upon my stone”), the vocal performance plus those harmonies… it’s pretty good to me.
Grade: C+ (Mark), B+ (Jay)
Next installment: “Don’t Tread On Me” – covered by SebastiAn, Portugal. The Man, and Volbeat.