What to listen to now: Recent releases from Muddy Waters and Arthur Alexander dig into rock’s past

Muddy Waters, seated, is joined by Mick Jagger, from left, blues harmonica player Junior Wells, and guitarists Keith Richards and Ron Wood in 1981 at Buddy Guy's Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago.
(Michael Halsband / Landov)

A weekly look at must-hear music from The Times’ staff. This week, we focus on new albums that dig into the past.

Muddy Waters & the Rolling Stones, Live at the Checkerboard Lounge 1981” (Eagle Records)

A group of blues fans did what any self-respecting aficionados of the genre would do when in the vicinity of Chicago back in 1981: make the pilgrimage to catch Muddy Waters performing, in this case at Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge. What made this visit different was that these Waters fans wound up backing their hero that night, because they just happened to be the Rolling Stones, who were on tour in the U.S.

In this previously unreleased recording, you can hear their delight in teaming with this bona-fide blues master — several actually, after Guy and Junior Wells also joined in — just as you sense Waters ratcheting up his game for the occasion while tackling such cornerstones from his repertoire as “Mannish Boy,” “Got My Mojo Working” and “Baby Please Don’t Go.” — Randy Lewis


Arthur Alexander “Arthur Alexander” (Omnivore Recordings)

The big selling point of this 1972 album by the great Alabama soul/R&B singer-songwriter who died young (53) in 1993 is likely to be his version of Nashville songwriter Dennis Linde’s then-new rocker “Burning Love.”

Shortly after Alexander recorded it, the song became Elvis Presley’s final top 10 hit during his lifetime. If that’s the first reason to check in on this collection, which went largely unnoticed when Warner Bros. released it, the reason to stay with it is the exquisite melancholy the Alabama-reared musician invests in just about everything he sings.

It’s a quality that made him one of the very few artists whose songs were recorded early on both by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (along with a few by Chuck Berry and Smokey Robinson). This expanded reissue of the original album also brings forth a half-dozen other tracks Alexander recorded around the same time as the album, two of which have never been released. The package features illuminating new liner notes from musicologist Barry Hansen, aka Dr. Demento, who wrote the notes for the original album, which also are reproduced here. — R.L.