David Conley, Bernard Jackson and David Townsend collectively known as Surface burst onto the scene in 1986 with the release of their self-titled debut. Initially a quartet with a female lead singer, Surface released three singles, which lead to writing gigs for the likes of New Edition and Sister Sledge. Finding little success with the early material, the group reemerged as a trio focusing mainly on ballads.
Led by “Let’s Try Again”, Surface’s self-titled debut let the world know the group was ready to compete with their counterparts. Written by the group in a collaboration with Isham Jones, “Let’s Try Again” displays the vocal talents of Bernard Jackson as he pleads for his lover to come back. However, it was the group’s next single “Happy” that actually elevated the group’s presence.
During their songwriting days, Surface originally gave the song to British funk band Hi-Tension in 1984. Hi –Tension would name the song “You Make Me Happy” and the track would become one of Surface’s signature songs. Set to a mellow production, Jackson sings his heart out and you cannot help but smile at the angelic and melodic vibe of the song. “Lately” was the final single released from Surface’s debut and is another winner.
The strength of Surface was that their songs had crossover appeal while staying true to R&B roots.
Beginning with the album track “We’re All Searching”, Surface continues to show us their talent. “We’re All Searching” could easily be flipped into a Gospel with its message of yearning for love and acceptance. “Gotta Make Love Tonight” is a song where you can just pour some wine, light a fire and enjoy someone’s company. After treating us to a pristine ballad and quality songwriting for the first half of the album,
Surface ventures into up-tempo material for the second half. Sadly, the second half of the album is not as strong. The song writing is still strong and Jackson’s voice is in top form, however the vibes of each songs just did not gel for me. However, the first half of Surface’s debut is so strong; they can be forgiven for the lackluster second songs.
Final Grade: B
Top Songs: The entire first half
Surface is available on all streaming platforms