Classics: Surface – Happy (Extended Version) (Columbia)
I suppose I gotta slightly disagree with what I’ve red on Wikipedia about Surface. This when affirming that “they are best known for their #1 Pop and R&B hit, ‘The First Time'”… True, it may be the track that got them the highest ranking in the charts (Stateside). But, ask many of their fans, and the first one coming to mind when thinkin’ of them would probably be ‘Happy’. Even though its first version appeared two years before back in 1984. Under the form of a single entitled ‘You Make Me Happy’, by the likes of British band Hi-Tension.
Surface‘s version of ‘Happy’ marked a big turn in the maturation of the band. This, as their debut-single for Columbia. But also with singer Bernard Jackson replacing Karen Copeland from then onwards. With countless artists eventually sampling it. From Keith Sweat (‘I’m The One You Want’) to R. Kelly (‘Only The Loot Can Make Me Happy’) to name a few. And eventually given a cover version by The Chimes ex-singer Pauline Henry. Meanwhile establishing the threesome with a signature sound on the smooth R&B front…
A native of Newark, NJ, David ‘Pic’ Conley became a flautist by pure coincidence. Starting to play this instrument he bought for US$ 10 with the initial intention to sell it for double price…
His first major step as a musician is when he decided to join Mandrill back in 1977. Eventually contributing to the recording of their 1979 ‘New World’ album. He then gave birth to what would be the first version of Surface. This while sharing the bill with guitarist David Townsend and singer Karen Copeland back in 1983. Itself resulting in the release of 2 singles – ‘Falling In Love’ and ‘When Your Ex Wants You Back’ – on Salsoul Records.
With Copeland leaving the year after, Conley and Townsend saw the arrival Bernard Jackson. The threesome establishing themselves as a solid reference from then in terms of R&B/Soul/Jazz. Thus releasing 3 masterpieces from 1986 to 1990 under the form of 3 albums titled ‘Surface’, ‘Second Wave’ and ‘3Deep’ on Columbia.
From their debut-album, the smooth and vibrant ‘Happy’ stands among their biggest classics. A song which David initially produced for UK Funk band Hi-Tension 2 years before on Streetwave. It would be the first of an impressive series of masterpieces. From ‘I Missed’ to ‘Closer Than Friends’ and ‘Can We Spend Some Time’. This in addition to ‘You Are My Everything’ and ‘Shower Me With Your Love’. 1990 seeing the release of ‘3Deep’. Probably their most vibrant offering ever featuring the classic ‘The First Time Ever’ and the outstanding ‘Give Her Your Love’.
David has recently gone back to serious activity with a so to say reloaded version of Surface named ReSurface along with singer John Feva. Both of them delivering the ‘Where Have You Been’ album back in 2015.