Review: Ricardo Cavolo

Who would you add to your list of 101 artists to listen to before you die? Ricardo Cavolo’s new book has got me started compiling my own list, and I’m borrowing quite a few from his.


101 cover

Ricardo Cavolo is a Spanish born artist, now based in Brighton. His latest project is an illustrated book launched earlier in the year with an exhibition at Soho’s Atomica Gallery.

The book documents each artist he thinks you need to listen to before you croak. The book’s introduction explains that he sees this project as a reflection of his generation who “use music in a very intense and expansive way”. The book is a study of his life through music. “Here is Ricardo Cavolo’s diary. It is a diary about music. It is a journal of illustration. It is a celebration of sound in colour”, reads the back sleeve. And there is no better description for this chronological combination of music and artwork.

Ricardo’s love of music explodes out from each page through his personalised, vivid accounts of each artist that are matched with lively, pop art portraits.

This book is a delicious spectacle for your senses to gorge on. Whilst reading it on the tube I noticed strangers stealing greedy looks: feasting on the vibrant colours, intrigued by the scrawled text and tattoo-like images that accompany each entry.

Charlie patton

From Mozart to the Wu-Tang Clan, each entry charts his discovery of an artist and his movement between genres. With each entry Ricardo lets you in on how the artists’ music makes him feel and the ways in which he listens to them. He explains how Charlie Patton’s music “carries me to the dark side of life and turns me into a one-eyed dog who knows only hunger and fleas” whilst Johnny Cash is given two entries in the book for having provided a song for every moment of his life.

johnny cash

The book taps into other parts of our lives that music touches on. It documents Ricardo’s search for identity through music, with each artists’ style influencing him in some way. The Carter Family fuelling his love of North American culture, The Beatles igniting his “long love affair with England” and Kris Kross affecting his college fashion choices.

the beatles

And the best thing about this book is Ricardo’s no music snob. He isn’t interested in impressing you with his avant-garde tastes or underground, unique discoveries, though there are some in there. This is an honest collection put together by an eclectic music lover. Ricardo captures this boundless love of all types of music in his entry for The Prodigy: “I admit that at first I had qualms about saying I liked them, because coming from punk, it was almost forbidden to like electronic music. But luckily I learnt to throw prejudices about music types and labels out the window and I began to enjoy it like a pig in the mud”.

You may feel reading Ricardo’s book there are artists missing from it that you would have included, but that’s the beauty of the book. Nothing is missing because this isn’t a music history book, it isn’t a technical review; it is a personal passion project about how music can make you feel. As Ricardo puts it, “I’m just firing the starting pistol… This selection is no better or worse than anyone else’s”.

The book jumps between genres, from classical, jazz, folk, punk, hip hop, electronic and rap. It’s all in there. It will remind you of bands you may have forgotten or left behind and if you’re anything like me, it’ll leave you with a list of new artists to discover that you’ve never heard of before.

Whatever your style, whatever your preferred genre is, there will be an artist in this book that you adore. You will devour this book and it will leave you desperate to start your own version. It is not to be missed.

Words by Anna Eaton

Available to buy now from Nobrow Press