Cover vs. Original

Romeo and Juliet


The original "Romeo and Juliet" employs the interplay between instruments and vocals to set mood and convey emotion. In it can be found a wide range of sentiment including whimsy, denial, introspection, pleading, anger, and acceptance. While Mark Knopfler's understated singing does contain some inflections, it sticks close to the melody and does not overshadow the instruments. But I think it's enough.

On the remake, the accompaniment by lone guitar is almost incidental and the singing conveys the emotion. Amy Ray can certainly be credited for pouring her guts into the vocal work as the emotional rawness and energy are obvious. However, it seems the subtlety and complexity are overpowered by anger or accusation. While I can't help but think, "yeah yeah, I get it, you're upset," even that artistic liberty is forgivable; it is quite legitimate for a reinterpretation to play up aspects different from those of the original.

Where I have the most trouble with Ray's version is when she frequently abandons the meter or melody to little positive effect. Sometimes it's with atonal speaking, sometimes simply shouting. Where Knopfler whimsically sings the phrase "Hey la, my boyfriend's back" on-tempo, Ray heavyhandedly retards it and drops the guitar, in my opinion losing the mood, which is supposed to be Juliet singing a song by The Angels (a 1960's girl group). Other examples could be given, but probably the worst case is when Ray screams "I keep bad, bad company!" again having dropped the guitar, the tempo, and the tune. I like to be pulled into a song and feel what the singer feels, but that particular event pops me right out and plants me firmly in the role of uncomfortably observing a trainwreck. This rendition was the first to make me wish I could excise a song from a CD with a sharp tool or perhaps a laser. Pity, because the rest of the album, "Rites of Passage" is great.

Now having vented my spleen in the above paragraph, I just listened to Ray's remake for the first time in several years to double check. I no longer wish to do damage to my CD. I was perhaps harsh, but not unjustified in echoing my earlier assessment from when I'd bought the album soon after its release in 1992. By the way, I also bought "Making Movies" soon after its 1980 vinyl release. It's one of the few vinyl albums that I later bought on CD; some day I'll have to "upgrade" the rest of my vinyl collection.

- Mod Ervador, Philadelphia, United States, 22.09.2005


Indigo Girls
1992

vs.

Dire Straits
1980

CD-Cover: Indigo Girls - Rites of Passage 44.6 % 55.4 % CD-Cover: Dire Straits - Making Movies
Results of the voting: Cover versus Original
Click on the cover for listening Click on the cover for listening
Indigo Girls 1295 Votes Dire Straits

Further information about song and bands:

Dire Straits
Guitar Page
Everything about Mark Knopfler's equipment. Guitars, amps and strings.
Indigo Girls
Official Site
The Official Site of the Indigo Girls. News, tour dates, lyrics, photos, videos - quite comprehensive.

Comments about Romeo and Juliet:

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La Vince Vaughn wedding crashing. La funniest man on la earth.
- Vince Vaughn, Mek e co, United States, 03.11.2010
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avV77u7B7F4&feature=related

Amy Ray sings Romeo & Juliet

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-G-GHTFoX4

Mark Knopfler sings Romeo & Juliet 3:34


Listeners (spectators) often identify with the performers (players) and try to put their selves into the performance and that influences a review. At least that's how I see it.

I looked at performances of "Romeo and Juliet" by Amy Ray (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avV77u7B7F4&feature=related) and Mark Knopfler (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-G-GHTFoX4) and a few others. Amy and Mark have standout performances while the others are tribute or cover versions.

Mr. Knopfler is a great guitar player, my lifetime favorite, and he carefully tells the story with the instrument. Ms. Ray also plays the guitar well, clearly supporting her performance. In telling the story, Ms. Ray uses a gruff, pissed-off attitude that avoids melody and shows more indifference than heartbreak. Mr. Knopfler tells the story with a bit of melody and a lot of control that avoids showing his broken heart, but a few facial expressions escape between the lines. I was touched by the grimace at 3:34 in the performance.

I like the author Mark Knopfler's version better than Amy Ray's great performance.
- Brucie, Holland, Michigan, United States, 20.06.2010
The Killers' is my favorite version
- Eric, Bergen, United States, 10.06.2010
Well, Dire Straits' version is a sweet song talkin about love. Amy Ray's song is a different one: she's enraged and shouts all the time.
Anyway, I love music, and it is so raw in the cover! Just a few chords with no melody in the voice. I love Dire Straits' song, so refined, and then I listen to this version and I can't hear but a child who has just learned to play the guitar and shouts words of rage! Awful.
- Giovanni, Venice, Italy, 05.09.2009
I didn't know someone had ever covered this song... So I gave it a listen... Couldn't finish it. It sounds like Melissa Etheridge during PMS. Awful.
- MaFe, Minneapolis, United States, 28.08.2009
I didn't know someone had ever covered this song... So I gave it a listen... Couldn't finish it. It sounds like Melissa Etheridge during PMS. Awful.
- MaFe, Minneapolis, United States, 28.08.2009
Amy Ray's version of Romeo & Juliet is my absolute favorite song. It's so raw. I was so excited to see this song on the Killer's album Sawdust, but was quite disappointed by it - I was expecting something much edgier from them.
- Rachel, Frederick, United States, 13.03.2009
Just heard Amy Ray sing it live. I was blown away by it. Dire Straits version never got to me that way.
- John, NYC, United States, 27.09.2008
the killers version is much better than both of them
- ben, canberra, Australia, 04.05.2008
You can't beat Amy Ray performing Romeo and Juliet live. Such raw passion!
- MadDashRev, Amityville, United States, 01.04.2008
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