Home Geek LifeCulture Vinyl Me, Please December Unboxing: John Lee Hooker – It Serve You Right To Suffer

Vinyl Me, Please December Unboxing: John Lee Hooker – It Serve You Right To Suffer

by Patrick Phillips

Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives! With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club, it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month … in their living room.

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The Skinny

Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (a 3-month membership will set you back about $119) and they send you one carefully selected album they feel is Essential to any record collection. Yes, it really is as easy as it sounds. You even get FREE SHIPPING. Each custom pressing (often on colored wax!) also comes with killer extras like original artwork, informative booklets, or even a recipe for a companion cocktail. 

You’ll have membership privileges in the VMP store too, which means you can grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including their AAA Classics Track pressing of Gabor Szabo’s mind-melting masterpiece Dreams – not to mention a slate of super-limited releases pressed exclusively for Vinyl Me, Please. The store is open, and Team VMP are dropping fresh new selections to their stock every single week. Do not miss out.

Word to the wise, while the store is open to the public, most of the more covet-worthy stock is only available to subscribers. Members are privy to reduced “Members Pricing” as well, so joining the club definitely has its rewards. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you’re not interested in for a past AOM selection that’s a little more your speed (including picks from the Classics and Rap/Hip Hop tracks). My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.

What’s on tap for December? Nothing short of a bluesy masterpiece from the one and only John Lee Hooker.

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For The Love Of Music, Please DO NOT BEND (or how I learned that if you wanna dig on that great Delta Blues train, you really gotta get on that Vinyl Me, Please Classics thang)

Ok, so you may or may not know that John Lee Hooker’s It Serve You Right To Suffer is not, in fact, the December Vinyl Me, Please Essentials pick. You might even realize that it isn’t even a 2020 pick across either the Essentials, Classics, or Rap/Hip Hop subscriptions. If that’s the case, I’ll go ahead and cop to swapping out the December 2020 Essentials pick for it this month. Not because I wasn’t intrigued by that pick, which was a freshly remastered, AAA vinyl pressing of the 1956 classic Lady Sings the Blues from iconic jazz vocalist Billie Holiday.

I know. How could I possibly pass up a AAA pressing of Lady Sings the Blues? I mean, it just doesn’t get any more essential than that, right? Truth is, I just haven’t been feeling vocal jazz lately. And as things are, I’m not entirely sure I’d spin even an album as renowned as Lady Sings the Blues very much for the foreseeable future. That being said, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna regret this swap somewhere down the road, especially if the Vinyl Me, Please pressing of Lady Sings the Blues soon goes out of print (as it almost certainly will).

Even still, this particular swap allowed me to finally snag a copy of an already out of print, 2017 VMP Classics selection that I sadly slept on when it first hit the sub. As it happens, I was only casually aware of that sub at the time as the Classics track was still very much in its infancy. For proof, the O.G. pressing of It Serve You Right To Suffer is actually Catalogue #2 in that series, and by all accounts it remains one of the best of the bunch, which is now 43 releases strong.

As you might’ve guessed, this is indeed a repress of the 2017 original. And yes, it is quite rare that the Vinyl Me, Please team represses any of their releases. Honestly, I don’t think I could’ve forgiven myself if I’d let It Serve You Right To Suffer slip through my hands a second time. And after giving this beauty a spin, I can whole-heartedly confirm that It Serve You Right To Suffer is not only one of the best Vinyl Me, Please releases I’ve ever received, it’s officially one of the best albums in my collection as well. So while I might one day regret swapping Lady Sings The Blues, I can rest a little easier knowing I swapped for genuine vinyl treasure.

I can also confirm that (at least in terms of the blues) It Serve You Right To Suffer bests Lady in virtually every facet, mainly because it’s as straight a shot of down-and-dirty Delta Blues as has ever been committed to tape. It’s Delta Blues sung and played by a man born to to the style. A man raised by a sharecropping preacher in a backwater burg in Mississippi, only to develop a bluesy style so singular in style and voice it’s virtually impossible to talk about blues music without addressing both directly and frequently.

And yes, both are front and center throughout the eight tracks that form John Lee Hooker’s 1966 masterpiece It Serve You Right To Suffer, an album as rife with with the sort of down home grit and unapologetically frank introspection you’d expect from any blues collection.

Now, some of you might’ve noticed the Impulse! Records logo on the cover of It Serve You Right To Suffer. If you did, it’s likely because you dig your jazz, and know them to be a jazz label of the first order. What you may not know is that this indelible John Lee Hooker joint was their first blues release, marking a potential turn into a vast new market of music. Unfortunately, it was also their last blues release as Impulse! Records’ brass ultimately decided it wasn’t a market they wanted even to dabble in.

That’s no reflection of It Serve You Right To Suffer, mind you (though the album was viewed as a financial failure upon release), because the album itself is as pure a distillation of John Lee Hooker’s sound as he’s ever released. More to the point, it’s a legit oddity in Hooker’s oeuvre as it was recorded with an old jazz man who took a different approach to recording than the singer was accustomed to, keeping the backing band tight but sparse, and letting Hooker’s vocals and guitar ramble and soar like true soloist.

The result is a collection of songs even casual blues fans are aware of, with gritty jams (“Sugar Mama”), countryfied acoustic ditties (“Country Boy”), and stone cold blues bombs (“It Serve You Right To Suffer”) serving as centerpieces for an album of blues-fueled bangers that influenced pretty much anyone who picked a guitar after its release. And just for the record, as far as opening tracks go, you’ll not find a more fitting intro than “Shake It Baby” anywhere in the canon of recorded music.

As presented here by Vinyl Me, Please, I can assure you won’t find a better pressing either, and I cannot recommend enough that you snatch this vinyl reissue up before it once again goes the way of the dodo.

Cover Matters

Sometimes less is more, and it’s safe to say John Lee Hooker’s It Serve You Right To Suffer is an album that more than speaks for itself. And in case there’s any question, you can practically feel the man’s primal howl emanating from that cover pic.

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As always, you’ll want to have a gander at the snazzy foil stamping as well, if only to confirm that It Serve You Right To Suffer is, and forever will be a Vinyl Me, Please Classics selection.

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And for those of you into things like track listings and album credits, you can also find those vital stats on the back cover (along with a killer summation of what listeners can expect from the album).

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Before you get to far into any Vinyl Me, Please box, it’s always good to glance at the hype sticker on the front, which generally details why their pressing of an album is the pressing you need. With a fresh remaster by Kevin Gray, 180g of wax in tow, and even a book of listening notes included, it’s clear VMP’s It Serve You Right To Suffer is indeed the definitive pressing of the album.

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If you need a little more convincing though, you should check out the slick OBI-strip that’s protecting the spine of every Vinyl Me, Please release, ’cause they typically use it to detail A) the album’s catalogue number and B) why they chose to make it immortal by tabbing it as a Classics selection.

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Team VMP is also upping their swag game of late with a monthly contest for subscribers to design a Vinyl themed sticker. This month’s pick is a colorful little ditty from the mind of Michelle Chang Wengrod.

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Stickers aside, you should know that VMP Classics picks do come with a little less swag than their Essentials brethren (i.e. no artwork or cocktail recipe). They do, however, come with a killer booklet taking listeners inside the album’s history … which is pretty sweet. And make no mistake John Lee Hooker’s It Serve You Right To Suffer is an album that deserves a historical deep dive.

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Team VMP tends to go all out with their album’s packaging too, and they gave this John Lee Hooker masterpiece its due with a sexy tip-on gatefold with pics of the man in action, and a few sage words about the album from journalist Stanley Dance.

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Once you’ve digested that info, feel free to get into that sleeve and dig out the wax, which is 180g of glossy black wax fit to bring some bluesy goodness to any ear it nears.

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Call me crazy if you like, but I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to these old Impluse! Records labels, so I always geek out a little bit when I add any Impulse! vinyl to my collection.

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And yeah, you’d better believe this glorious slab of wax is gonna bring some serious blues thunder to any deck deemed worthy of spinning it.

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How’s it sound? Like you stumbled into the steamiest, sweatiest little back alley gin joint on planet Earth, and found a lonely man strumming a guitar and pouring his soul out to a dark, empty room. And yes, I mean in that in the best possible way.

Give It A Spin

Look, I realize I’ve done my fair share of stumping for all things Vinyl Me, Please with these unboxing pieces, and while I have, on occasion, had an issue or two with some of the albums they’ve tapped as “Essentials,” they’ve never hit anything less than a homer with their Classics selections. Needless to say, John Lee Hooker’s It Serve You Right To Suffer fits that bill in every possible way. Quite frankly, I’m sort of baffled as to how this album didn’t end up as an Essentials selection. C’est la vie, I suppose.

Whatever their reasoning, I can assure you this pressing of John Lee Hooker’s It Serve You Right To Suffer is as immaculate as any VMP Classics or Essentials release to date. And as it is, this may be the release that convinces me to finally go all in on a Classics track subscription. I’d be willing to wager it’ll have that effect on you too.

A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out Vinyl Me, Please‘s official website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door every month! Check back next month for more crunchy vinyl unboxing fun!

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