Carole King returned with her sixth studio album during September of 1974 with the release of Wrap Around Joy. It was not as diverse or adventurous as her previous release, Fantasy, but it proved to be more popular as it topped the Billboard Magazine Pop Album Chart and remains her last number one album to date.
The biggest change from previous releases was her use of lyricist Dave Palmer on all of the tracks. It would signal the beginning of her depending on outside lyricists to a larger extent than in the past. While the album had a cohesiveness that was missing from some of her prior releases, it was not as intimate or personal as the words were not her own. Still, it was a polished rock/pop album that remains an enjoyable listen nearly four decades later.
She used several dozen support musicians, including full horn and string sessions. Included among the background vocalists were daughters Louise and Sherry Goffin. King also expanded her instrument of choice from just the piano, as she also played the synthesizer and guitar.
The album returned her to the musical mainstream as “Jazzman” (#2) and “Nightingale” (#9) both became hit singles and received extensive radio airplay. “Jazzman” was a relaxed and smooth song, notable for Tom Scott’s sax lines. “Nightingale” included forceful piano playing from King.
One of the highlights was the back-to-back songs, “You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine” and “You’re Something New.” The first was a break-up song and the second was a joyous love song.
It would be interesting to have a history of the recording process to learn if Palmer and King wrote together and if not, who wrote first. Whatever the process, there were a number of gentle songs with many exploring the joyous side of love. “You’re Something New,” “You Gentle Me,” “Sweet Adonis,” and “A Night This Side Of Dying” all looked at the relationships as King sings with emotion, even if the words were not her own.
The last track, “The Best Is Yet To Come,” concluded the album on a positive note as she looked toward the future with hope.
Wrap Around Joy is often overlooked in her large catalogue of releases. It may not be her most creative or interesting album but when taken on its own merits it emerges as polished and in some places sophisticated pop. It is perfect for a lazy afternoon listen.