Rene Lopez may arguably be one of the most talented, charming and sadly under-appreciated artists i’ve had the unique pleasure of covering and getting to know through this site’s history. As the son of Rene Lopez Sr, the salsa trumpeter who had played with the Ray Barretto Orchestra and Tipica 73, two of the most highly regarded and beloved salsa acts of their time, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that the younger Lopez was raised in a home where music was a very vital and constant presence; in fact, the younger Lopez learned how to play drums before he could read. But as Rene Lopez grew into his own as a musician, he gravitated towards rock, R&B, soul and funk. With stints in bands such as Wasabi, the Authority and Extra Virgin. Lopez has been involved in New York’s music scene for the better part of two decades as a drummer and frontperson, playing in countless venues including the beloved and dearly departed home of New York’s jam band scene – The Wetlands. (Interestingly, when I had mentioned Rene Lopez to another drummer, who I have written about once or twice, my drummer friend had mentioned catching Lopez in a band or two back in the Wetlands days. Talk about small world, indeed!)
Interestingly, Lopez artistically has been something of a chameleon throughout the bulk of his career. His fourth and latest full-length effort, Paint the Moon Gold is comprised of compositions that are stripped down to live instrumentation only — vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, horns, flute, etc. And in some way, the material possesses familiar elements as it continues to draw from the salsa of Lopez’s youth and of his late father, Rene Lopez, Sr. But it’s not as seemingly straightforward as the uninitiated would likely believe; in fact, the compositions manage to owe an even greater debt to the smooth, breezy, summery feel of 70s Brazilian music. And if you listen to it as a whole, it sounds as though it could have easily been released sometime in 1974 as it could have been released a few months ago.
However, his forthcoming EP, Love Has No Mercy and it’s first single, the EP title track “Love Has No Mercy” reveals yet another change in sonic direction for Lopez. Featuring a guest spot by Carol C, the track is a slinkily seductive, synth-based R&B and funk track that sounds as though it were inspired by the likes of Prince, The Gap Band, Rick James, Chic and others, down to the sinuous bass line, and cooed vocals. It’s track that’s sexy as hell – and it may be the funkiest, most straightforward party jam Lopez has released to date.