San Francisco Chronicle   
Nov 7 '99

by Beth Winegarner


When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right 
Clean Slate/Epic, $17.98 

With her 1996 debut album "Tidal,'' Fiona Apple was heralded as a fresh voice in jazz-pop and often scorned as a tactless brat. Some critics have already been put off by the 90-word poetic title of Apple's latest, due Tuesday. But "When the Pawn . . .'' reveals Apple's maturing sense of music. 

The album is alive with rhythm, from the one-two punch of "Limp'' to the jiving first single, "Fast as You Can.'' Apple is using her piano less as a prop and more as a real instrument, cunning in tempo and flavor. Backing her are producer and multi- instrumentalist Jon Brion and drummer Matt Chamberlin, whose resume includes work with Tori Amos and Pearl Jam. 

Apple's songwriting shows greater depth, from the simple fury of "Get Gone'' to the lush poetry of "Love Ridden'': "I've wished on the lidded blue flames under your brow . . . I want your warm, but it will only make me colder when it's over.'' Even her naked voice sounds more assured, sometimes lovely on ballads like "I Know.'' 

Apple walks a fine line; the freedom of jazz suits her, but she uses pop to achieve a greater audience -- one that can't decide whether to love or hate her. That seems to suit her, too. 

4 stars