An edited version of "Cold Sweat" was released as a single on King Records and immediately became a #1 R&B hit, and later reached number seven on the Billboard Pop chart. The complete 7 minute version was later included on the album Cold Sweat. Like all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.
The song form is unique in two ways. First of all, it's based around a bass and horn riff (which became the signature of all of Brown's funk songs), and the form is somewhat random, as James shouts orders to the band when to change and when to hold the form. On the full 7:26 version of the song, the form looks like this:
Intro (4 bars), Verse (16 bars), B Section (10 bars), Chorus (4 bars), Intro, Verse, B Section, Chorus
That's where the single version ends. On the album version it really gets interesting as this is what follows:
Intro, sax solo, drum solo, drum and bass, Intro, Verse, B Section
This is where James directs traffic, calling for tenor sax player Maceo Parker to play a solo, letting him go for a random length, then asking the band to "Give the drummer some" which turns into a short drum solo (played by the great Clyde Stubblefield), then James calls the bass in. He then counts the band back into the verse, but tells them to hold on the B section, and that's where the song ends. Only James Brown could do this and have a hit, thanks to his legendary band discipline.
The James Brown Orchestra was a gigging machine in those days (1967), so every arrangement was created to play live, which is why they could do the song with no overdubs (according to James' band leader and co-writer Pee-Wee Ellis), but I think that they probably only recorded on a mono or two track machine anyway. The arrangement elements look like this:
* The Foundation: Bass and drums, with an electric guitar doubling the bass
* The Rhythm: The 2nd guitar playing "funk chunks" along with a baritone sax answering the sax riff.
* The Pad: None
* The Lead: James Brown's vocal, Maceo Parker tenor solo
* The Fills: The horns playing the riff line in the verse, and again answering during the B section and chorus.
"Cold Sweat" was recorded in May 1967 at King Studios in Cincinnati. Recording wasn't that sophisticated at that time, especially in a non-media center in the middle of the country. That said, a number of things stand out. First of all, the balance between all the instruments is great, especially the horn section. Second, there's a very long reverb on the vocal, and later on the sax solo (who was probably using the same mic, just like during their show). Everything else is dry. The you have the drums, which sound okay until the solo when he begins to play the toms. They sound separated from the rest of the kit, which makes me think they were miked separately. Finally, the song is very light in the low end, which was a trait of most music until about the late 70s.
The production of "Cold Sweat" is all in the arrangement and the direction of James Brown during the song. There are no overdubs, so there was no layering, and either the band got it or they didn't. It's obvious they captured something that still works 45 years later.
Anonymous suggested the following video of the song, which is the long album version that we know followed by the 2nd take. I also included this short clip from a concert James gave in Zaire in 1974, which shows him at his glorious peak. The arrangement is different from the original though, which is often the case with all James Brown songs. He changed them a lot the more the band played them.
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