January 11, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

Back in the benighted pre-MTV era, in the late ’30s and early ’40s, short music-performance movies called ”soundies” captured a number of all-time musical greats at the height of their powers. Some of the best of these precursors to music videos have been compiled on videocassette in Leonard Maltin’s Movie Memories-Soundies: Vols. I-IV

Vol. I: The 1940’s Music Machine With greats Louis Armstrong and Nat ”King” Cole, as well as a jazzy teenage Doris Day, Liberace, and, of all people, a pre-stardom Alan Ladd. B

Vol. II: Singing Stars of the Swing Era Showcase of big band ”canaries” — Anita O’Day, Helen O’Connell, and June Christy with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. B

Vol. III: Big Bands The best Basie band, Cab Calloway singing ”Foo a Little Bally-Hoo,” Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and — too bad — Lawrence Welk. B+

Vol. IV: Harlem Highlights A mini-history of black American pop, from Bill ”Bojangles” Robinson to Louis Jordan’s proto-R&B. B+

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