Hrm... That's interesting!
I'm dual-booting 10.04.1 LTS and 10.10 Alpha 3 on this machine.
Lucid doesn't have the "muted on startup" problem. Soooo...
I simply renamed the alsa-utils file in Maverick and copy n' pasted the one from Lucid. End of problem!
The interesting thing is, I compared the 2 alsa-utils files, and the only difference is:
A single (missing) line is the only difference.
$ diff /sbin/alsa-utils /sbin/alsa-utils-orig
> mute_and_zero_levels "$TARGET_CARD" || EXITSTATUS=1
That was an easy fix!