For those who cannot afford to slurge on the entire epic 16-CD box of the complete Songbooks -- and I suspect that means most of us -- here's a formidable alternate, up to a point. This three-CD box in effect wraps a slipcase around the compilations The Best of the Song Books, Love Songs: Best of the Verve Song Books, and The Ballads: The Best of the Song Books, so it looks smart and impressive on the shelf without draining the budget too seriously. The problem is that this generous brace of 48 selections is thoroughly scrambled within each album, out of chronological order and with all of the composers tumbling after one another. One solution: if you have a CD changer, you can program all of the tracks of a particular composer together and emerge with a series of mini-songbooks. In any case, all of the Ella Songbooks are represented, some more than others, and three hours from them will suffice for most casual Ella fans. For a more diverse overview of Ella's Verve years, though, entry-level collectors will be better served by the three-CD First Lady of Song.