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Celebrity album covers

Celebrity album covers — A review of cover art from Christie Brinkley, Bob Dylan, David Byrne, and more

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Christie Brinkley says she got the gig painting husband Billy Joel’s album cover after competing with professional artists. Believe it or not. But what about when rock stars want to do their own covers? Who’s gonna say ”Sorry, Joni, it sucks”? Fortunately, most rockers moonlighting as artistes aren’t embarrassing themselves — according to ARTnews associate editor Jonathan Goodman, anyway. He graded some of the music world’s more high-profile Picassos for EW.

Billy Joel River of Dreams
Christie Brinkley gives a perhaps too literal reading of the title. But the well-painted primitivist scenes illustrate Joel’s songs with verve, and as a painter, Brinkley has come up with a strong and unified composition. B-

Bob Dylan Self Portrait
As smart as he is, Dylan is about feelings, all kinds of them. His portrait is direct, painted in broad strokes, but his eyebrows, raised, keep their distance. Another paradox from a master of paradox. B+

John Mellencamp Whenever We Wanted
German Expressionism in the heartland? It doesn’t make sense, but somehow Mr. Mellencamp pulls it off. The music lacks verbal focus, yet the paintings feel genuine. Mellencamp traffics rather well in visual sadness. B+

Jane’s Addiction Ritual de lo Habitual
Perry Farrell’s remarkable shadow-box collage technique creates a world of its own — and you won’t forget the straight-on gaze of the girl in the center. The cover’s surrealist hypervividness almost outstrips the music. A-

Crowded House Woodface
The painting by bassist Nick Seymour, a wooden Halloween face that opens up to the stars, dovetails with the open, melodic music of this Australian pop band. But the image, like the ballads, tends to lack irony. B

Book of Love Lovebubble (cover by David Byrne)
Byrne’s use of random imagery seems arbitrary. Each image by itself is powerful, but the relationships between them are obscure. Even so, his juxtapositions are striking. B

Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians Respect
The painting goes well with the songs of this intelligent and musical surrealist. A couple of lemon heads (also the eyes of a face) on a field with a huge butterfly? Who knows, it just might mean something. B+

Chris Mars 75% Less Fat
His images try too hard to be weird: The front cover looks like a landscape painted over a face painted over a tree. I don’t get it. C+

Ronnie Wood Slide on This
His drawings look like his music — direct, smart, and given to funk. Above all, professional. His take on Charlie Watts in mid-beat is as knowing as his slide guitar. Of all the people here, Wood has the purest art talent. A-

Joni Mitchell Clouds
Joni has been a Romantic for a long time. Her self-portrait is everything you’d want in symbolic transcendence: a lake, a sunset, a flower. Her music is preferable, though; it still soars after nearly 25 years and isn’t as dry. B