Sony has belatedly realized that Columbia Records’ photo archive could be used for more than just box set filler. The monolith, which is suffering from “hard times,” has founded Icon Collectibles, which is selling a 11″x12″ photo of Johnny Cash for $300. “His eyes shine with the light of deep secret knowledge and the gravitas of an artist who’s born to carry the truth in his music.” For that much money, they damn well better! Lovely one-to-two feet long photos of Billy Joel, Johnny Mathis, Muhammad Ali (who did a spoken-word album for Columbia — score, Sony!), Ella Fitzgerald, Glenn Gould, Bob Dylan, and several others are also available to those with a grand to kill.
Last year the company started Icon Collectibles, a boutique business that sells art-quality reproductions of these photos online, for prices from $300 to $1,700, and through various partners (including the News Services Division of The New York Times). Now it is expected to announce Thursday that it has made a deal to sell its photos through the Morrison Hotel Gallery, which specializes in rock imagery. In mid-July the gallery will open an exhibition of photos from Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in its gallery on 124 Prince Street in SoHo, with plans for an exhibition of Miles Davis images in November.
“We’re looking to take advantage of all the assets of the company, not just the audio recordings,” said John Ingrassia, president of Sony BMG Music Entertainment’s commercial music group, which manages the company’s catalog. “We have the content, and we found a way to tap into it.”
Yeah, yeah, more power to you, poor little conglomerate. Let’s just enjoy some more of those photo descriptions.
Johnny Mathis achieved his greatest success as an album artist, creating a best-selling series of sophisticated collections which served as the backdrop and inspiration for countless romantic and sensual encounters the world over.
Photographer Jim Haughton’s iconic cover portrait of Billy is as psychologically and emotionally complex as the songs; both, unforgettably rich with symbolism and implication. “We all have a face that we hide away forever and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone,” sings Billy on the album’s title track. Here, like frames from a film, are 12 sequential images from “The Stranger” cover shoot, many of them formerly unseen, each offering a different perspective on the mysteries of “The Stranger.” You can also notice the red mark which designates the actual chosen cover.
You mean “the good take.”
While the bulk of Muhammad Ali’s (aka Cassius Clay) “I Am The Greatest!” album featured the future champ dissing then-current World Heavyweight title holder Sonny Liston, predicting his impending victory in great comedic detail, the sessions for the record also produced Ali’s soulful rendition of the Leiber-Stoller R&B classic, “Stand By Me.” This Don Hunstein candid photograph finds the boxing icon spellbound by his own charisma, ignoring the notes in his hand to chant the words burning in his brain.
No offense to Ali, but more singers should use the “I was spellbound by my own charisma” excuse when they “ignore” notes.