The Civil Surface is Egg’s third and final studio album, originally released in 1974 on Caroline Records. The band had broken up in 1972, leaving some of their favourite stage pieces unrecorded. At organist Dave Stewart's suggestion, the trio re-united in order to record these compositions. Among the guest musicians on the album are Steve Hillage (guitar), Lindsay Cooper (oboe & bassoon) and vocalists Amanda Parsons, Ann Rosenthal and Barbara Gaskin.
Listeners have complained that the drums are mixed too loud on the album's organ trio pieces. In an article written for the UK fanzine Ptolemaic Terrascope in 1990 (quoted in Mark Powell's liner notes of the Esoteric Recordings CD re-release), Dave Stewart explains that it was the unbending wish of drummer Clive Brooks that his drums be featured prominently in the mix, and that the other members were unable to persuade him otherwise.