James Brown is most known for uptempo sweaty funk workouts. But as with every great artist, he was more versatile than he's often given credit for, and recorded quite a few ballads during the early part of his career, particularly in the first part of the 1960s. "Prisoner of Love" was the most successful of these, and in fact was Brown's first pop Top Twenty chart hit in 1963. It was also the result of Brown's first session with strings. As a string-laden cover of a popular standard, it has been suggested that Brown was influenced by the then-recent mammoth success that Ray Charles had enjoyed with his string-coated productions of standard ballads and country and western songs. "Prisoner of Love," unlike almost all of Brown's other material up to that point, did not originate with gospel, R&B, or the blues. It was a pop song that had been recorded as early as the 1930s, and versions had appeared by artists such as Mildred Bailey, co-writer Russ Columbo, Perry Como, Billy Eckstine, the Ink Spots, and Lena Horne. Regardless of the motivation, "Prisoner of Love" was an excellent recording, one which was soaked with soul despite the pop source of the material and the decision to add strings. Those strings are certainly inescapable, the track starting with a dizzying upward swell of violins. But actually, other than the strings and some pop choral background vocals, the arrangement is a pretty earthy if basic R&B one, with a low grunting sax and an even doo wop-like tempo. Too, Brown's vocal is impassioned gospel-soul, delivered with enough nuance to prove that he was capable of effective restraint as well as all-out shaking. In the last half minute or so, he starts to get more heated and improvised-sounding, the track unfortunately fading when he seems to be starting to get really into it (the point where he starts pleading "you...you...you"). This part of the song would be milked far more heavily in live performance, where Brown stretched this section and the song itself out, as he did with much of his repertoire. He still had it in his set, in fact, in the late 1960s, as its inclusion on the classic Live at the Apollo Vol. 2 demonstrated.