This song is a testament to how few lyrics you need if you’ve got a decent arrangement — only a couple of tweets full, in fact, if you discount the repetitions. What always impresses me is the sparseness of the textures, most obviously in the frequent moments of solo vocal and when that alto sax solo arrives accompanied only by the drums. I also love the way the horns neatly supply responses to Brown’s calls, but then land on the beat with him to highlight the onset of the middle section (“When I hold you in my arms…"). Without such economy of means, the ‘slap some mechanical reverb on everything’ mixdown approach could easily have turned the final sound to mush, but here the effect tails have the space to become almost an instrument in their own right, especially when the isolated stabs shine a spotlight on them.
And nowhere is the reverb tail more prominent than during the outro, a section so remarkable that it still feels a bit space–cadet even after all these years occupying a place in the collective consciousness. Think about it for a moment. Ten snare hits with unison horn staccato notes. A pause. A single snare ‘bap’. A screamed “Hey!” And then five seconds of one–chord freak–out. Honestly, you’d think I’d lost my marbles if I strolled up to you and said, “I’ve got the perfect outro for your song”, and then gave that description!
In record production, the line between inspiration and madness can get pretty fine.