All too often, albums of cover songs are just stopgap efforts put out by artists whose creative juices have run dry. So when I heard that Ringo Shina was making her comeback in the form of a covers album after taking a year’s maternity leave, I was skeptical. But my expectations were raised as the names of the songs she was covering were announced one after another on her Web site. It was a weirdly eclectic list, including songs as utterly different as The Beatles’ “Yer Blues” and “I Wanna be Loved by You” from the movie “Some Like It Hot.”

I’ve been listening to the album, titled “Utaite Myori — Sono Ichi” (which translates very roughly as “I’m So Happy to Be a Singer — Volume 1”) over the past few days, and it is anything but a time-filling, contractual obligation collection. In fact, I think it’s one of the best albums released in Japan so far this year.

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