When the Eagle Flies was the band's fourth consecutive studio album to reach the American Top Ten and have gold album status. It was far less successful in the United Kingdom, where it entered the charts at number 31 only to drop off the following week. Traffic toured to support the release, but they disbanded in the middle of the tour in 1974.
The Chris Wood composition "Moonchild Vulcan" was recorded for the album, but ultimately left off in favour of "Memories of a Rock N' Rolla". The song was played on the supporting tour for the album, however, and a live recording by Traffic was later released on the posthumous Chris Wood CD Vulcan, released in 2008.[nb 1]
Rolling Stone called the album uneven, saying that its bleak tone works superbly on "Graveyard People" and "Walking in the Wind", but elsewhere it often "turns anemic as a result of either a poorly conceived arrangement or inadequate production." However, they regarded the use of tighter and more concise songs as a promising change in direction for the band, and recommended the album based on the renewed strength of Winwood/Capaldi's songwriting and Winwood's work with the keyboards.Allmusic's retrospective review asserted the opposite: that the album indulged in long and meandering instrumentation more than any other work by Traffic, with even the vocals doing no more than "improvising his melodies over the music, paying little heed to the meaning of the words".
^The 2008 Vulcan CD also includes a post-Traffic studio recording of "Moonchild Vulcan" by Wood. Other recordings of the song, including the Traffic version, appear on the Chris Wood compilations Evening Blue (a box set) and Moon Child Vulcan (an abridged MP3 version of the box set).