Midnight Drive

The Kinsey Report

Alligator Records, 1989


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The only time I almost got thrown out of a bar was in 1990, when "Duke" Williams and I went to go see The Kinsey Report and interview them for the radio station I was working for. (The reason we almost made a butt-first exit was because I was 19 and Larry was 17; I had to do a lot of sweet-talking to the owner to convince her to let us stay.)

Lead guitarist/vocalist Donald Kinsey and crew blew us away, covering not only songs from their then-latest release Midnight Drive but also kicking into a killer version of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up". (Kinsey had once been a member of The Wailers, so he knew exactly what he was playing.) Sitting right next to the amplifier, I'm honestly surprised that I can still hear after that show.

The problem is that after almost nine years, Midnight Drive has lost a lot of its then-sharp edge. It also confirms the truth about a lot of bands: they're better live.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With the exception of guitarist Ron Prince, The Kinsey Report is a family affair; besides Donald, brothers Kenneth and Ralph round out the band on bass and drums, respectively. This could explain a lot about the band's musical tightness. The problem is that none of the instruments seem to want to take the forefront, and when some of them do, they seem to hop out at inopportune moments.

Lead guitar is often used as an additional vocal for a lot of Midnight Drive, especially in the title song. While this technique might work for someone like B.B. King, it tends to get annoying pretty quickly with The Kinsey Report. It would have been nice had the rhythm guitar been turned up on occasion, as well as the bass. It's not that Donald Kinsey isn't a capable singer; it's just that I'd have liked to hear the other musicians as well.

The songs on Midnight Drive are a mix of good and indifferent. Tracks like "Nowhere To Go, Nothing To Lose," "Can't Stop Thinking About You" and the cover of Curtis Mayfield's "River's Invitation" all shine, the latter providing the best sound for the band throughout the whole album. Other tracks like "Hit Woman" would have benefitted from a different mix - even something as simple as more treble or more bass. (To be honest, even the addition of keyboards would have been nice here.) Still other tracks, like the autobiographical "Big Time," come off as self-serving.

The highlight of Midnight Drive was to have been "Free South Africa," blasting the system of apartheid in the pre-Mandela release world. It's a nice thought, but lyrically it is lacking a bit of direction, and the production again doesn't help matters. (It should be noted that live, this song was unstoppable - hence my declaration that some bands are better live.)

Maybe the problem with Midnight Drive is that it's damn near impossible to capture the essence of a band like The Kinsey Report in the studio; the stage is where their muse visits them, and is where they belong. Still, when one knows the power a band like this one has, it tends to magnify any disappointment.

Midnight Drive still has a lot of music that's worth your time and money to check out - but don't accept this as a substitute for seeing the band live. (To be honest, it's been a long time since I heard about The Kinsey Report - here's hoping they're still at it.)

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Alligator Records, and is used for informational purposes only.