James Varda – Opher’s World pays tribute to a genius.

James Varda
James Varda erupted into oblivion in around 1988 and has largely been unheard of ever since, which is utterly bemusing. I first saw him as the support for Roy Harper, who was impressed enough with the angry young man to offer him a rare opportunity opening the show, and liked him from the first verse. He stood awkwardly and played his guitar with his head on one side looking shy. But his songs gave the lie to that. They were powerful and full of poetic imagery and passion. The songs rang and there was a hint of Dylan’s snarling tongue. His black clothes and attitude were redolent of that early polka-dot shirt and angry stance. He spat the words out. You don’t normally pay too much attention to the support act but James was riveting. He was tall, wiry with skin tight trousers and pointy shoes like an angry James Dean. Off-stage he was delightful, intelligent and interesting.
His first album Hunger confirmed the stature. Andy Ware at Awareness Records had done a good job transferring the stage power of those songs onto vinyl. There was strength to them. I revelled in it right from the start.
James promoted the album with numerous gigs and radio appearances. He was getting great reviews and media interest and was causing a bit of a stir. Yet despite all the recognition and accolades the album reputedly only sold five hundred copies leaving James at little disillusioned and consumed by self-doubt.
During the recording of his second album Awareness Records went bust. Andy offered the tapes to James who threw them away in a fit of picque and gave up.
James decided to call it a day. He dropped out of the business.
James resurfaced years later with the release of a couple of delightful albums. The style had changed. He was less aggressive and more wistful but the talent had not changed. They weren’t quite the force of his debut but their soft, melodic style was appealing.
The tour de force was the last album. James had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and it prompted him to pour out all his considerable artistic and emotional energy into one last cathartic gem.
It’s all there. Chance and Time is a masterpiece of poignant intensity that soars through the majesty of life. A suitable legacy if ever there was one. There was never been anything quite like it.
James has not yet been recognised as the major talent he is; but he will be.

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