Album Review: Ball Park Music - Museum + Live at Manning Bar (2013 Special Edition LP)

Ball Park Music released their second album Museum last year and have now reissued it with a live show from Manning Bar. The studio and live album combined show just how much they've grown as a band since their first release.

Some live albums aren’t really that great to listen to. Maybe you couldn't hear the crowd at all, or maybe the recording didn’t capture the atmosphere of the night. But then you have Ball Park Music do a live album. Wow. Their live shows really are something special to experience firsthand and the way the recording at Sydney’s Manning Bar captured it needs to be congratulated.

The first few tracks on the live album are taken from their latest record Museum. The best part of this recording, along with Sam Cromack’s vocals and how great the band sound, is hearing a crowd go crazy singing along. It’s so common at gigs to look around in bewilderment at people standing still and not getting excited. But hearing the crowd on this recording makes me wish I’d been there singing along.

Opening with ‘Cost of Lifestyle’ gives them a chance to get rid of any problems with sound or vocals. Not that there are any, but it’s a good way to warm up at the start of the gig. Getting straight into ‘Fencesitter’ the Manning Bar crowd yell: “I put it on red and I lose, I regret all my tattoos, I just wanna be a fence sitter, a fence sitter with you," along with Cromack.
‘Surrender’ isn’t as energetic and at times Sam’s voice can’t quite get the higher notes. They make up for it with a great version of ‘Bad Taste Blues (Part II)’. But the real fun starts when they play 'All I Want Is You'. Hearing the crowd sing along for the whole song induced shivers. The band work together so well on every song and manage to make you feel like you were there.

You can't fault Ball Park Music as a live band. If you've seen them before, you'll know just how energetic and committed Sam Cromack is on stage and the way he gives everything in every performance. Every person on stage is talented and obviously loves being there - and this manages to come across in a recording.

The studio album Museum is a strong follow up to their debut, Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs. The aforementioned songs 'Fencesitter' and 'Surrender' are the big singles from the album, but 'Pot of Gold', with its fun chorus and driving melody deserves a mention too. 'Bad Taste Blues (Part I) and (Part II) are also standouts on this album. The band's songwriting skills are starting to mature but not by sacrificing the fun and the lightheartedness that we heard on their debut.

If you have a chance to see Ball Park Music live, be sure to take it. They bring energy, commitment and lots of fun to the stage and create a live show that you'll always remember. Or, if you can't get out to see them, listen to this live recording. It's almost as good as the real thing.

Review Score: 8.6 out of 10.

Museum: 2CD Special Edition is available now on StopStart/EMI