The New York Knicks are a poorly run basketball team. But then again, any basketball team would be awful if they were run by a rockstar! Just kidding, James Dolan is a billionaire who also sports the title of Executive Chairman and CEO of Madison Square Garden Sports and Madison Square Garden Entertainment, as well as Executive Chairman of MSG Networks. His father handed James Cablevision, a television empire, and James turned that into… a sale in 2016 that lost him $250 million dollars. However, James Dolan runs the Knicks, and that’s important to know.
It’s also important to know that Jame Dolan is the lead singer for “JD and the Straight Shot”, a band that often plays Madison Square Garden. Why? Here’s why:
“Because of his corporate status and his friendship and business relationship with entertainment executive Irving Azoff, Dolan has been able to leverage JD & The Straight Shot onto shows by The Eagles, The Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top, Jewel, Keith Urban, the Dixie Chicks, Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph. Attendance by Madison Square Garden staff employees “is expected and noted” when the group plays at New York clubs.”
So yeah, I had to check out this album. Being the “Broadway Vet” that I am, I figured why not give it a listen and see what this band is all about. I mean, how bad can it be?
It’s not like this album will be as bad as five playoff appearances in the last twenty years, right?
The Great Divide: The Review
Track 1: “The Great Divide”
“The Great Divide” opens with the song “The Great Divide” because of course it does. The song has a Johnny Cash meets The Civil Wars vibe, but never fully gets to the same polyphonic level.
The song’s first verse feels promising at the start, despite the common rhyme scheme. However, the lead up to the chorus drops you off a cliff as the “Great Divide” refrain hits your ear… much like the Knicks dropped off the map soon after Dolan took over.
Before James Dolan took over the Knicks franchise from his father, the Madison Square Garden residents had made the playoffs 14 years in a row, making the finals twice. In Dolan’s 20 years at the helm, they’ve made the playoffs five times, making the Semifinals twice.
The bridge goes full Dropkick Murphy’s out of nowhere, and honestly, that’s about as exciting as the song gets. It feels like a song written by elementary school teachers about fire safety.
This is the song written for people who post Facebook memes about “where this country is going.”
Best Lyric: “Instead of closing it tighter, we’re making it wider.”
Track 2: “Dead Men Tell No Tales”
Almost all of the vocals in this song are shared between Dolan and a female vocalist, and frankly, I’m puzzled as to why. Just let her sing it. It would be a better song. Flat out. James… why?
Much like running the New York Knicks, it would just be better for someone else to do it. However, I’m sure that like most people who tell Dolan he should give up control, whoever brought up that idea was asked to leave the studio.
Track 3: “It Must Be Night”
I don’t like the timbre of Dolan’s voice. It’s got this zombie-like quality, and I don’t like imagining him like that. This song as has a “True Blood” fan faction vibe to it. Which is kinda cool, but not great, ya know?
Track 4: “Invisible”
SO this song starts off Dispatch’s “Past the Falls” and I was so onboard, and then it just slows down the minute James opens his mouth. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far from listening to this album it’s that James Dolan’s voice is lazy, and not it a jazzy way. It’s like he’s back-phrasing without back-phrasing. The man could sing Hot Patootie from Rocky Horror and it would be a ballad. That being said, James Dolan…. make that Rocky Horror revival happen.
All in all, this song just is… and that makes me wish I was invisible. #GotEm
Track 5: “I Should’ve Known”
“I Should’ve Known” is trying so hard to be Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” that it actually hurts. Also, this is point in the album where I begin to wonder if James Dolan knows that she’s a billionaire and not a coal miner. Like, it feels pretty obvious to me, but… did anyone tell James?
Track 6: “Bees”
This is a song about Bees? I don’t know. I don’t know, guys.
… Maybe it’s from the Bee’s point of view?
I don’t know. We’re just past the halfway mark of this album, and it hasn’t necessarily gotten weirder, but it’s definitely gotten… closer to what I expected from James Dolan.
Track 7: “Anything But Love”
Okay, so this song is amazing. Straight up, it’s FLAWLESS.
So from what I get from it is that James Dolan is letting the recipient of this song know that he can give them diamonds, pearls, travels around the world, anything in the world, but not LOVE. HE CAN’T GIVE THEM LOVE.
JEEZ. Tough stuff there, JD.
My favorite line comes in the second verse, when JD sings “There’s a Genie in me, just wish and you’ll see.” So he’s a bottle? If he’s a bottle then he’s not granting wishes, that’d be the genie that is mysteriously trapped inside of James “The Bottle” Dolan.
He then sings, “Not much I can’t do, I do it all for you.”
And this is where I begin to question whether or not God is real.
James, you can’t say I can’t do this, and then say I can do everything. You can’t do that. I don’t care if this is poetry. It makes no sense. You’re not Bjork. You can’t just makeup nonsense and call it something.
Track 8: “Take It Slow”
So this song is literally a rip-off of Santana and Rob Thomas’s “Smooth”. I’m not even joking. It’s the laziest form of adding a semi-Latin song onto this album. It’s not terrible, but the moments that bring you up to the edge of singing “Well, it’s just the ocean under the moon” make it rough. If it wasn’t a worse version of that classic, it might be okay. Kinda like how adding Julius Randle instead of any other free agent in 2019 is not terrible, but you wish you had the better version.
Track 9: “Walkin’ On A Wire
This song is not great. It’s just lazy. There’s nothing going on. There’s no discernable story. It’s just words. It’s the mad lib of bluegrass songs.
Track 10: “Happy Together”
This song is a classic. However, when JD and the Straight Shot get a hold of it becomes so much more.
The opening lyrics:
“Imagine me and you, I do
I think about you day and night, it’s only right
To think about the girl you love and hold her tight
So happy together”
Right off the bat, this song feels like an ode to Knicks fans. You love your girl (the Knicks) and you hold her tight. Every day you toil with her whereabouts, her well-being, her place in the standings, and each day you think about how good things could be if she were a halfway decent basketball team.
The second verse drives that same point home, except this time James is telling you that he’s willing to invest in your love, in the name of improving that relationship, of creating a utopian world where NBA Championship rings grow on trees and max contract players are drooling at the mouth to play at Madison Square Garden.
“If I should call you up, invest a dime
And you say you belong to me and ease my mind
Imagine how the world could be, so very fine
So happy together“
And then you realize that this song is not about you and the Knicks, but is, in fact, a song sung by James Dolan to James Dolan as he looks deeply into his own reflection.
“I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you
For all my life
When you’re with me, baby the skies’ll be blue
For all my life
Me and you and you and me
No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be
The only one for me is you, and you for me
So happy together
I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you
For all my life
When you’re with me, baby the skies’ll be blue
For all my life”
Life sucks, huh?
Track 11: Jessica
The final track on this album is a real treat. Why? Because James Dolan doesn’t sing and that’s the greatest gift he could give any of us: doing nothing.
In conclusion, this is the whitest album of all time. I know it’s bluegrass, so that’s kind of a given, but it’s non-stop. But in the end, on a scale from Joakim Noah to R.J. Barrett, I give this album an Amare Stoudemire. It’s not terrible, but in the end, it’s gonna leave a lasting taste in your mouth that’ll make you despise James Dolan.
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