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Click below for a Surface sample:

Closer Than Friends


Surface was a soul group that scored with a number of hits in the 1980s and 90s.  The  trio of Bernard Jackson (bass, vocals), David Conley (drums, various horns and woodwinds) and David Townsend (guitar, keys) had amassed years of experience prior to forming the group.  Conley had worked with Mandrill, while Townsend was the son of songwriter Ed Townsend ("Let's Get It On"), and together they played in a group called Port Authority. A family recommendation brought the three together.  

Oddly enough for an act known for their smooth and soothing records, Surface's first single was the disco jam "Falling In Love" for Salsoul in 1983.  Remixed by Shep Pettibone, the song became an underground classic, but was atypical of their sound, and one assumes this is why no album was released on Salsoul.  They spent the next  few years writing for acts like Sister Sledge, Jermaine Jackson, and New Edition before signing to Columbia, where "Happy" introduced them to a wide audience, hitting #2 in 1987 and crossing over to the pop top 20 as well.  

That song kicked off a brief but intense run of popularity, where eight singles reached the top 10.  Among the most notable were "I Missed," "Closer Than Friends," and "You Are My Everything."  While the pop audience paid little attention to Surface's more groove-oriented work, they took great interest in their ballads, turning the 1989-90 tracks "Shower Me With Your Love" and "The First Time" into wedding standards and staples of light rock/pop stations ever since.  

Despite their phenomenal success, the aggressive sound of new jack swing and increasing popularity of rap made Surface seem trite and dated, with an attendant fall in appeal.  By 1991, that tell-tale sign of impending doom, the greatest hits collection, was issued, and they were now called Surface featuring Bernard Jackson.  After they formally disbanded, Conley and Townsend returned to writing and production for acts ranging from Aretha Franklin to Victoria Beckham.  Plans for a reunion were scuttled when Jackson died October 26, 2005. 

Surface's Deepest Grooves

Surface (Columbia, 1987) 

2nd Wave (Columbia, 1989)
Probably the best of Surface's albums, with five of the eight cuts being among their standards.

3 Deep (Columbia, 1991)

The First Time: The Best Of Surface (Columbia, 2001)

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